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ASLA Takes Part in Great Outdoors America Week

Research has shown that Americans, especially children, are growing increasingly disconnected from nature despite an outdoor industry that has grown dramatically in the last decade. This year, Great Outdoors America Week provided an opportunity to raise awareness about our collective connection to the great outdoors.

On Tuesday, June 25, the Center for American Progress hosted a discussion on Children, Conservation, and the Future of America’s Outdoors.

At this event, newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and award-winning author Richard Louv discussed the status of conservation and public lands policy in America. The event engaged the audience in a valuable discussion on how people can become more connected with nature.

The growing disconnect between children and nature has had severe implications for physical and mental health. According to Secretary Jewell, “the problem isn’t just health care, but rather health itself, and keeping people healthy to begin with through the use of outdoor space. In order to improve public health, people must be more connected with outdoor public space.”

To improve our collective connection to the outdoors, the idea of nature-rich cities was discussed. Nature-rich cities were described as energy-efficient engines of biodiversity that can connect more people to the outdoors. In addition to promoting nature-rich cities, the speakers identified the need to connect employment with nature, maximize the benefits of federal land resources, and conserve natural barriers to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Secretary Jewell noted that “the federal government should be seen as a catalyst, one that is able to bring together knowledgeable scientists, interpretive staff, and environmental educators to help improve our connection with the outdoors, regardless of jurisdiction.”

The speakers were encouraged by the fact that previous opponents of public lands were now realizing the ways in which these lands drive industry. Secretary Jewell noted that outdoor recreation represents a $646 billion industry, a number that can’t be ignored.

ASLA Manager of Government Affairs Kevin O’Hara, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and ASLA Government Affairs Intern Jake McAlister at an America’s Great Outdoors Week event on the National Mall.

Overall, the discussion gave valuable insights to the status of conservation and how people can become more connected with nature. By maximizing the use of land resources, conserving public lands, and engaging young people at the local level, Americans can become more connected to outdoor space.

On Wednesday, June 26, Great Outdoors America Week continued with the “Kids, Youth, and the Great Outdoors Festival” on the National Mall. This event was hosted by the, an organization in which ASLA is a member.

Secretary Jewell, and Outdoor Alliance for Kids members and volunteers at a Great Outdoors America Week event on the National Mall.

At this event, 100 local youth participated in nature-related recreational activities including bike riding, a kayaking demonstration, and camping 101. Secretary Jewell was present at this event, and afterward held a press conference to discuss the importance of connecting American children and families to nature. She was joined at the event by members from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Army for Civil Works, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and the Outdoor Alliance for Kids. The festival ended with an urban walk along the National Mall to Capitol Hill.

Great Outdoors America Week was successful in engaging members of the community, Congress, and the Obama administration on the topics of conservation, public lands, and our collective connection to the great outdoors. ASLA will continue to work to promote public policies that connect adults and children of all ages to parks, public lands, and the great outdoors.

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