February 18, 2011
On February 16, 2011, President Obama released a report outlining the Administration’s plan to enhance conservation of public and private lands through the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative. The AGO Initiative is a partnership between the Department of Agriculture (USDA ), Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). According to the Administration, the report is based on 51 public listening sessions and more than 105,000 submitted comments.
Specific recommendations and action items include:
According to the report, in addition to providing financial and technical assistance for conservation to landowners, it is essential to both maintain traditional markets for food, fiber and wood products and develop new and expanded markets for environmental services, agricultural products, biomass energy, and sustainably harvested wood products.
The interagency partnership expects the AGO Council–within 180 days of its establishment–to publish a plan with assignments and timelines to improve agency coordination, align federal programs, and implement the report.
You can download the full report or parts of the report from the America’s Great Outdoors website.
The President launched the AGO Initiative in April 2010 to help shape his conservation policy. The launch included a presidential memorandum outlining broad goals, including encouraging sustainable use of private land, connecting wildlife migration and other natural corridors, encouraging outdoor recreation and conservation, and forming coalitions with local government and the private sector.
NSAC submitted a public comment on the Initiative to USDA conservation and environment senior leadership. The comment called attention to the critical role played by USDA working agricultural lands conservation programs in advancing the Initiative’s goals.
The NSAC statement noted the strong connections that could be made between the AGO objectives and both USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative and regional rural economic development initiative. Our comment also recommended more effective use of the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program, to enhance conservation education and recreation opportunities.
The NSAC statement also took the Administration to task for proposing to reduce USDA private lands conservation spending, a reality that has to our great disappointment reoccurred in the FY 2012 Obama Budget Request. On Monday, the President proposed slashing over $1 billion from USDA conservation programs, a budget proposal that appears strongly at odds with the AGO announcement two days later.