America’s Great Outdoors Listening Sessions

The America's Great Outdoors Initiative can be strengthened by vigorously embracing natural and cultural resources. As a nation, it is important to recognize, maintain, protect, and expand the heritage that is represented in our trails, parks, and historic and cultural sites. 

To inform this new initiative, the Obama Administration has launched a national dialogue about conservation to learn about some of the smart, creative ways communities across the country are conserving outdoor spaces. In addition to providing an online forum where Americans can share their ideas, the president is moving ahead with a series of summer listening sessions.

Upcoming Listening Sessions

Events have already taken place in Montana, Annapolis, Charleston, and Seattle, and we're happy to report that historic preservation was well-represented at each of those meetings. There are plenty of upcoming opportunities to attend. Dates (some tentative) for upcoming listening sessions include:

      • July 8 – Los Angeles, CA
      • July 12 – Grand Island , NE
      • July 15 – Ashville, NC
      • July 16 – Grand Junction,  CO
      • July 16 – Denver CO
      • July 17 – Albuquerque, NM
      • July 27 – Philadelphia, PA (Cultural Resource Focus Session)
      • July 29 – Hudson River Valley, NY
      • August 6 – Salt Lake City, UT

Click here for more complete information about upcoming listening sessions, including how to register. 

Talking Points

Each listening session includes a panel discussion and break-out sessions to discuss four questions designed to help shape the initiative. Below are some suggested responses to those questions that will help make the case for our country's historic and cultural resources.

What Works: What are the most effective strategies for conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors?   

      • Modeled after its sister program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Historic Preservation Fund provides dedicated funding to support the programs and activities that were identified in the National Historic Preservation Act.   
      • Programs like Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and National Heritage Areas attract private dollars and work in partnership with the federal government to address preservation needs, promote economic development, and create jobs.
      • State and municipally-owned historic parks, trails and sites; National Historic Landmarks and sites on the National Register of Historic Places; and privately-owned historic sites are easily accessible and located in nearly every community across the nation. Through reinvestment and rediscovery, they can play an important role in getting Americans outdoors.     
      • Initiatives like the Forest Service's Passport in Time program provide hands-on experience and volunteer opportunities for individuals interested in historic preservation and archeology.

Challenges: What obstacles exist to achieve your goals for conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors?

      • Cuts in funding for Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and National Heritage Areas.
      • Lack of full funding for the Historic Preservation Fund.
      • State budget cuts causing the closure and lack of maintenance for state parks.
      • Proposed termination of the Challenge Cost Share program with the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
      • The Internal Revenue Service's concerted efforts to disqualify deductions for the contribution of historic preservation easements by insisting they have no value.

Federal Government Role: How can the federal government be a more effective partner in helping to achieve conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors?

      • Fully fund the Historic Preservation Fund.  
      • Increase funding for existing federal programs that promote preservation and heritage tourism.
      • Encourage people to discover and explore America's Great Outdoors – Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and National Heritage Areas.
      • Increase funding for the maintenance, protection, and expansion of existing historic sites, parks, trails, and cultural landscapes. Unfortunately, our historic, cultural, and archeological resources suffer from huge maintenance backlogs, lack of proper survey, and inadequate comprehensive planning. 
      • Expand federally-protected historic and cultural sites as appropriate through the establishment of new national parks, national monuments, trails, units of the National Landscape Conservation System, and other federally-protected areas.  

Tools: What additional tools and resources would help your efforts be even more successful?

      • Increase the capacity of federal, state, and local agencies to care for and interpret historic and cultural places while engaging youth and creating jobs for Americans. This can be done by expanding the Youth Conservation Corps, reinstating a Civilian Conservation Corps, and supporting programs like Teaching with Historic Places.