Obama Launches Great Outdoors Initiative

President hopes to protect wilderness, create jobs, and get Americans outdoors through new program

Waffling on getting outdoors this weekend? Just do it: Even the President is getting in on the act. Obama held a news conference this morning to launch the Great Outdoors Initiative, a new executive plan to protect more of our wild spaces, establish urban parks, and get Americans outside and active. In an unusual move, Obama hopes to enact much of the initiative through local government, volunteer organizations, and private groups rather than use the heavy hand of federal government.

To help pull all this off, he plans to host listening sessions across the country to cull the best ideas to incorporate into the Great Outdoors Initiative.

In his speech, Obama clearly outlined his process to build the Great Outdoors Initiative:

"First, we’re going to build on successful conservation efforts being spearheaded outside of Washington -– by local and state governments, by tribes, and by private groups -– so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites, and the great landscapes of our country.

Secondly, we’re going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and their grandchildren.

Third, we’ll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the “Let’s Move” initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.

And fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago."

To doubters, President Obama presented this compelling answer:

"In a time of great difficulty, when we are recovering from the worst recession in generations, and waging two wars abroad, some may ask whether now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to our national heritage. But I want everybody to recall, it was in the midst of civil war that Abraham Lincoln set aside lands that are now Yosemite. It was in midst of a great depression that FDR formed the Civilian Conservation Corps that built the trails and campgrounds and parks we enjoy today."

Don't think I could've said it better myself. I guess that's why I'm not president.

—Ted Alvarez