View Full Version : White House Meeting

04-27-2010, 18:10
As a follow up to the thread about a hiker meeting President and First Lady Obama on a trail in NC, I thought I would pass this along. Unfortunately, I couldn't just link to it. This was an email that Bruce Matthews, Executive Director of the North Country Trail Association sent out to our leadership: Hope the formatting doesn't get too messed up.

North Country Trail Represented at White House Conference

News release:

16 April 2010: President Barak Obama signed a memorandum directing the creation of a 21st Century Strategy for America’s Great Outdoors as North Country Trail Association Executive Director Bruce Matthews and other invited guests looked on. The President made his announcement at the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors, at which 500 national leaders gathered to kick off the President’s initiative and help direct next steps in reconnecting Americans with their outdoors heritage.

Representing the leadership of trails and other outdoors advocacy organizations, the outdoor industry, sportsman’s and conservation groups, and land trusts, the White House Conference attendees gathered to witness and applaud the historic event and offer guidance on implementation of the President’s initiative. The Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture moderated panel discussions on conserving America’s working landscapes and re-connecting Americans with their outdoor heritage. The conference concluded with break-out sessions focused on identifying what’s already working and how the federal government can better enable its conservation initiatives to move forward. Strong consensus exists among attendees that full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical, as is focusing on creating better access for Americans to use and interact with their outdoors.

To view a video of the President’s remarks go here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/president-obama-signs-america-s-great-outdoors-memorandum

Thoughts on the White House Conference by Bruce Matthews:

The NCTA was honored by our invitation to join about 500 others representing the leadership of America’s outdoor organizations. Representing groups ranging from state natural resource agencies to non-profit advocacy groups, land trusts to the private sector, all were connected through their shared passion for the conservation and appropriate use—and passing on— of America’s outdoors legacy. The President emphasized that his 21st Century Strategy for America’s Great Outdoors was patterned after Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts; while admitting it was unlikely he would ever kill a bear the President nonetheless spoke to having a conservation legacy on the same level as TR’s. It was pretty cool to be there, and way cool to be representing the nation’s trails community.

I was struck by the administration’s total commitment to the initiative, as broadly represented by the heads of the departments and agencies affected, from the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to the EPA and Council on Environmental Quality. In my experience, while we’ve seen administrations mouth similar rhetoric before, we’ve not seen it done in this way nor with the total engagement of the entire federal government. My sense is a lot of the leadership for it is coming from Interior Secretary Salazar, who from day one in his administration has advocated a similar agenda.

Although many of us hoped President Obama would use the occasion to announce full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it was clear that he was instead opting to initiate momentum and engagement among a wide constituency in the hope of generating input and broadly shared ownership. It was clear that the President did not believe the government had all the answers and instead invited the community represented at the White House Conference to identify what was working and what more the government could do to more fully accomplish goals. President Obama also noted that even in rough economic times “we are called to take the long view,” and cited all the progress made on a conservation agenda during the Great Depression and in times of war.

Here were some of the keywords and phrases used frequently by the President and other speakers throughout the morning:
Connectivity, and re-connecting
Creating linkages, building corridors
Connecting history, culture, place and community
Conservation as our common destiny as Americans
Conservation of shared values
Shall we define our relationships through conflict or cooperation?
Passing on an undiminished landscape
Some additional key points included the importance of linking these conservation efforts with wellness initiatives including combating obesity, and creating a shared community vision and common will to solve difficult problems.

Trails figured prominently in their centrality to the mission of connecting Americans with their treasured landscapes, and becoming corridors for linking landscapes and people. “Traveling the ground in between” was one reference made that seemed to resonate. As we re-create the peoples’ identity to include the American landscape we need to find and build trails home again. Trails leading to mystery; trails linking communities, trails re-telling old stories and creating new ones.

I loved the story told by Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, of a local man tired of watching the vacant lot across the street being used in drug trafficking. He cleaned up the lot, roto-tilled it and created a community garden, “mixing his spirit with that piece of ground.”

I love that. It is what we do at NCTA with our North Country Trail, which is far greater than an 18 inch by 4600 mile tread roughed into the ground. It represents the mixing of the collective spirits of thousands of red plaid North Country believers with this trail through our northern heartland, uniting and linking us in our shared heritage.

I understand the next steps will include a number of gatherings around the U.S designed to listen to more ideas about what’s currently working and how the federal government can help. As we learn more we will be keeping you informed.


Bruce E. Matthews
Executive Director
North Country Trail Association
229 E. Main St.
Lowell, MI 49331
616-897-6605 FAX
[email protected]
www.northcountrytrail.org (http://www.northcountrytrail.org/)

Annual Conference August 5-8, 2010, Ashland WI