The America's Great Outdoor Initiative: from Conversation to Action

 

Leaders from Federal Land Management agencies discuss their plans for increasing youth involvement as part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. From left to right: Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Youth Office Director at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Will Shafroth, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior; Meryl Harrell, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Harris Sherman, Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Monday, leaders from U.S. federal land management agencies made the Forum one of their key venues for announcing their next steps of action in response to findings from a nationwide listening tour. As part of the Obama Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the tour helped assess what Americans perceive to be obstacles to getting outside and enjoying America’s public lands both in cities and in rural areas.

A major component of the listening tour and initiative is getting young people further involved as stewards of America’s public lands. According to the speakers at the session, across the nation, over 2,000 young people provided feedback in 21 different listening sessions. Several common themes emerged. One was that government websites are not engaging and user-friendly. The government must use social media and modern technology to better appeal to youth and encourage them to get outside. Another theme concerns how it is challenging for many young people to find and win federal jobs with land management agencies — making it less likely that they will consider outdoor careers.

To begin addressing these problems, one solution that speakers talked about is a new website called youthgo.gov that is hoped to help make finding federal job opportunities easier for young people. Another is the creation of a 21st Century Conservation Corps, modeled on the Great Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. The Corps Network will be a major partner in providing ready-to-go positions for individuals who will join the 21st Century Conservation Corps. It will essentially represent an effort to bring conservation corps to scale on a greater national level. 

A highlight of the day’s activities was Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s keynote address. He also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Corps Network that will allow members of the network to fast-track cooperative work agreements with federal land management agencies.

The Corps Network’s Service and Conservation Corpsmembers of the Year look on as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signs a Memorandum of understanding with Sally Prouty, President of The Corps Network.