Future of outdoor use explored
August 6, 2010
Juan Martinez never saw the stars at night until he was 15. Growing up in South Los Angeles, he didn’t have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Martinez was in Salt Lake City last Tuesday sharing his efforts to connect young people with outdoor recreation through the Natural Leaders Network. He was the guest of Steve Rendle, president and CEO of The North Face, which sponsored the Outdoor Industry Association breakfast that traditionally kicks off the first day of the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Rendle said The North Face company supports efforts to connect youth to the outdoors.
"For us, there was usually a person or a special experience that ignited a love for the outdoors," Rendle said to Summer Market attendees. "We’re interested in sparking multi-cultural participation to inspire the next generation of explorers and conservationists."
There is a movement underway of people trying to get back to nature because it is a human need, Martinez said. Some do it through sports like kayaking or hunting, others through a community garden or working a ranch.
As more children grow up in cities and suburbs and recreate indoors, they’re losing that important connection with nature, said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
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Sutley was in Salt Lake City with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar conducting public listening sessions later that day for The President’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiatives to gather input on what the Obama administration’s conservation policies should be.
Conservation and promoting use of the outdoors especially among youth is important to Barack Obama, she said. He recognizes that it is a part of Americans’ traditions, culture and identity as a nation.
"Solutions won’t come from Washington, but from communities from the bottom up," she said.
A healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand, Sutley added. That is why solutions to sprawling development, climate change and the increasing urbanization of America must be found.
OIA head Frank Hugelmeyer commended Salazar for his support of the Land & Water Conservation Fund to pay for preservation of outdoor spaces for recreation. Every county in America has benefited from the fund, and 40,000 parks nationwide were created or improved by the fund, he said.
Salazar was the keynote speaker of the breakfast and admitted that focusing on conservation may seem strange when the administration has so much to worry about including a recession and two wars, but it is during national crisis that much good has been accomplished, he said. For example, Yosemite National Park was designated during the Civil War.
Americans tend to adopt an "anything is possible" attitude in the midst of struggles, he said. Additionally, outdoor recreation creates jobs.
Salazar said some have questioned the wisdom in inviting public input in Utah a state that has often disagreed with his policies. But Zions National Park and Canyonlands are two of the "crown jewels" in the National Parks system and visitation generates thousands of jobs.
Utah exemplifies so much of the economic contribution of conservation, he said.
His own goals include protecting farmland and ranchland, restoring the health of the nation’s rivers, creating urban parks, protecting wildlife and getting more young people outdoors, he said.
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