Last Friday, I was privileged to be invited to and speak at the White House Conference On Conservation. It was a great opportunity to network among "the greatest conservation leaders in the world", as declared Secretary of the Interior and conference host, Ken Salazar. The day-long conference of panels and breakout sessions was capped with an appearance and remarks by President Obama.
This conference was the continuation of the President's Intiative on America's Great Outdoors (AGO). You may recall, IMBA and its Outdoor Alliance partners participated in a significant way throughout the public engagement phase of AGO. Thanks to the empassioned commitment and vision of Secretary Salazar, last week's conference provided additional momentum to this 21st Century Conservation Agenda in three key areas: Renewing Communities - Connecting People to Nearby Lands and Waters; Restoring Rivers - Building Resilience for People and Wildlife; and Conserving Rural Lands - New Models for Working Lands and Wildlife.
The overall theme of last week's conference, was summed up well by Secretary Salazar as he greeted attendees who hailed from all 50 states. “People across the country are coming together to protect and preserve the places that nurture our souls, provide opportunities for recreation, and power our economies," said the Secretary.
I was favorably impressed with the President's heart-felt comments of his personal experience as an 11 year old on the occasion of his first visit from Hawaii to the mainland and Yellowstone National Park. And I appreciated the President's admonition that the choice between growing the ecomony and a healthy environment is a false choice. The President also struck a chord with me when he quoted Aldo Leopold, who over 75 years ago wrote in an essay titled, The Farmer as Conservationist that "conservation is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution." The President remarked of Leopold's viewpoint that "It's not just about doing nothing; it's about doing something affirmative to make sure that we are passing on this incredible blessing that we have."
I couldn't agree more with the President and at the very moment he said this I thought of the many mountain bikers, certainly those associated with IMBA and its local chapters and clubs, who demonstrate "doing something affirmative" every time we work on trails. And our work to conserve trails touches and impacts each of the three AGO themes mentioned earlier.
My thanks to the President and to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, the USDA and Secretary Vilsack, the Interior Department and Secretary Salazar, and the US Army Corps of Engineers, all who helped to make last week's conference meaningful and for including recreation and mountain bikers as key conservation stakeholders.