America’s Great Outdoors 2012 Report Shows Progress for Urban Green Spaces

Washington, DC (December 4, 2012) – This month, the year two progress report was released on America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. To promote and support innovative community-level efforts that conserve outdoor spaces and reconnect Americans to the outdoors, grants and government leadership have targeted projects across the country. Trees are playing an important role in Chicago and Washington, DC where they are revitalizing urban green spaces and improving waterways.

Within the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative, “Establishing Great Urban Parks and Community Green Spaces” is a hallmark of the AGO vision.  According to the 2012 report, “With more than 80% of Americans living in urban areas, prioritizing urban projects makes it possible to bring the benefits of the outdoors to millions of people.” Through community-driven and community-supported efforts, and collaborations among federal government agencies, new kinds of partnerships are focused on building safe and environmentally-sound urban areas and outdoor spaces for all Americans.

In Chicago, for example, the largest urban park in the contiguous United States is underway. The project, backed by federal grants and at least $17 million from the state, aims to turn 140,000 acres of under-used and post-industrial land in the Calumet region into a public recreation hub called the Millennium Reserve. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted $1 million to support restoration and conservation projects including planting 100,000 trees, restoring native habitat for migratory birds and coastal wetlands. And EPA has provided nearly $1 million for the control of invasive species and implementing green infrastructure projects in adjacent communities. This is the first large-scales attempt to protect the Lake Calumet area. Here’s more on the project.

And in Washington, DC, the Anacostia River and nearby trails are being restored in part to protect the watershed and inhibit pollution from entering the river. Federal, state, and local organizations have partnered to improve the health, accessibility, and economic viability of the Anacostia River as part of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. According to the 2012 report, “The river flows through one the area’s poorest neighborhoods where resident have few safe and accessible recreation opportunities.” In spring 2012, they completed a major stream restoration, preventing an annual 1,500 tons of runoff from entering the river, while providing new community green space for 150,000 residents. And the Anacostia Revitalization Fund will invest $5 million over the next three year for more watershed restoration, including green streets to prevent pollution from entering the rivers and urban gardens. More on the Anacostia Revitalization Fund.

The Obama Administration released the 2012 America’s Great Outdoors Progress Report December 4th, detailing key successes of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, including advancing local conservation priorities, expanding access to lands and waters for recreation, restoring critical landscapes, and creating great urban parks and water trails in American communities. 

Background on the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative

In April, 2010, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors.

The Memorandum called on the Secretaries of the Interior and of Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to lead the Initiative, in coordination with the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Labor, Transportation, Education, and the Office of Management and Budget to develop a 21st century conservation agenda that builds on successes in communities across the country, and starts a national dialogue about enjoying America’s great outdoors.

In addition, the President has made it clear that one of his priorities is to engage young people, especially those who live in our Nation’s cities, and to find ways to get them to go outdoors to experience America’s unique natural heritage.

Related Resources
2012 America’s Great Outdoors Progress Report
America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO).
Millennium Reserve
Anacostia Revitalization Fund