By Denise Ryan
The 2012 Progress Report of America’s Great Outdoors, released yesterday by the White House, details the remarkable accomplishments of this program over the last year. Project descriptions and dramatic photographs showcase the remarkable range, scope and diversity of actions to protect our outdoor heritage. A broad range of agencies, government entities, and private groups have played a part in these efforts, including the National Trust and a number of other preservation and conservation organizations.
This focus on America’s Great Outdoors began two years ago, when the Obama Administration asked the public about their conservation and recreation priorities. Administration officials held 51 listening sessions in cities and communities across the country and held a special listening session in Philadelphia in August 2010 for historic preservation. From these listening sessions the Administration developed an action plan, detailed in the February 2011 report America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations. A year later, projects are well underway, and are “empowering communities to protect, connect with, and restore the great outdoors; leveraging public-private partnerships; and increasing collaboration within and across agencies.”
While the emphasis of the America’s Great Outdoors program has been on conservation and recreation, it has supported several of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Treasures projects including the national monument designations of Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Va., and Chimney Rock National Monument near Pagosa Springs, Colo. In particular, the report notes that these projects embody the America’s Great Outdoors because they harness community support for designation and management and provide more opportunities for Americans to connect with the outdoors. It also references a report commissioned by the National Trust showing that the designation of Chimney Rock is expected to double the economic activity of tourism in the area over the next five years.
The report also highlights efforts to designate Fort Ord National Monument and César Chavez National Monument both in California. The National Trust and its partners have supported these efforts through letters of support and, in the case of the Chavez nomination, participation in a National Park Service theme study seeking to raise the profile of American Latino heritage.
Denise Ryan is the Director for Public Lands Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.