SEATTLE - "America's Great Outdoors Initiative" kicked off in February as an attempt to help people get outdoors and make better use of natural resources - not only recreating on trails, in forests and on rivers, but creating more accessibility for outdoor recreation in urban settings, too. This week, outdoor enthusiasts and staff members from public land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USDA Forest Service are meeting in Colorado to decide how to turn the Initiative's recommendations into realities.
Dr. Glenn Haas helped organize the conference for the National Association of Recreation Resource Planners (NARRP)
. He says getting Americans outdoors is going to take a lot of collaboration.
"What can the private sector do? What can our state parks agencies do? What can the Bureau of Land Management do? This meeting is focused on implementation. Great ideas are in the report - but how in the world do we do it?"
The Obama administration says getting people outdoors not only has health benefits, but boosts a whole segment of the economy. The most recent Outdoor Industry Association study
says outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion a year to state and local coffers - and that creates jobs.
Some lawmakers, however, have targeted park systems for funding cuts, saying parks are not a necessity. In Olympia, lawmakers have taken a different approach, by approving the new Discover Pass. It costs $10 a day or $30 per year for vehicle access to state-run recreation sites, with the money going to support the state Parks, Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources departments.
Haas says tight budgets are prompting everyone to be more creative, and not just with fundraising.
"There are many, many things we can do - many 'best practices' that don't cost a dime. It just takes a little passion, a little conviction and a little redirection."
The Discover Passes are a way to make up for budget cuts to the state agencies that manage natural resources. They'll be on sale starting in mid-June, wherever fishing and hunting licenses are sold. On July 1, they will be required.
Details about the NARRP
conference are at www.narrp.org
. More information about the Discover Pass is available at www.discoverpass.wa.gov