Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was joined by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Director Bob Perciasepe to host a public listening session today on how to conserve lands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and open up the region's extraordinary recreational opportunities to more Americans.
The listening session, one of a series taking place across the country, is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative to develop a conservation agenda worthy of the 21st century and to reconnect Americans with the great outdoors
"If we are to succeed in better caring of national treasures like the Chesapeake Bay, we must do so in partnership with the people who live and work in communities near them and most of all have a deep love and passion for them," Salazar said. "Under the America's Great Outdoors initiative we are reaching out to communities across the country to hear good ideas about conservation and to learn about the efforts that Americans are making to conserve our land, water, and wildlife."
"I want to thank President Obama and Secretary Salazar for their vision and leadership, and for bringing this important public discussion to our State and the magnificent Chesapeake Bay," said Governor O'Malley. "Improving outdoor opportunity and access is a priority for us, and we welcome the federal partnership that supports that mission as well as conservation of the natural resources that provide jobs and support our economy."
"Nobody knows better than the people who live and work in the Chesapeake Bay area how precious the Bay truly is," said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "Communities across the country are finding innovative ways to protect their special outdoor spaces, and these listening sessions are helping us identify ways to partner with them on a modern approach to conservation that begins at the ground level, and to reinvigorate the national conversation about our outdoors."
"America's Great Outdoors includes our working landscapes - the farms, ranches and forests that have fed and sustained us for generations," said USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Sherman. "Nearly 75 percent of the land in the Chesapeake Bay basin is in private farms and forests, and another 12 percent is in publicly-owned forests. We believe that a thriving and sustainable agricultural sector is essential to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and we want to learn more about successful community-led efforts to conserve those lands and how we might support those efforts."
"As our generation considers the nation we will leave to our children and grandchildren, protecting America's great outdoors like the Chesapeake Bay takes on a renewed importance," EPA Deputy Administrator Perciasepe said. "Engaging local residents, the people who know these areas best, is the first step toward strengthening our efforts and ensuring that all Americans have access to a clean environment no matter where they live."
President Obama inaugurated the America's Great Outdoors Initiative at White House Conference in April. The conference brought together leaders from communities across the country that are working to protect their outdoor spaces and focused on developing and supporting innovative ideas for improving conservation and recreation at the local level.
The President has made the health of the Chesapeake Bay a high priority, issuing an Executive Order on Chesapeake protection and restoration in May 2009. Through that order, he directed federal agencies to develop a stronger effort to advance work on the Chesapeake.
For more information on the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, please visit: http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors.