Friday’s White House Conference on Conservation

On Friday, I had the privilege of attending the White House Conference on Conservation held at the Department of the Interior. It was an inspirational afternoon, with river restoration prominently featured.

President Obama spoke about initiatives to promote stream restoration and provide opportunities for fishing and other outdoor recreation. Hearing the President address these issues, which so many Americans care about so deeply and that are at the heart of American Rivers’ work, and hearing the President do so in such personal terms, conveying his strong commitment to conserving our rivers and the wildlife and human communities that depend on them, was truly inspiring.

All three of the conference panels highlighted the importance of protecting and restoring rivers, making clear why rivers are truly the central pillar of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

The river restoration panel, led by Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, provided compelling examples of river restoration as a way to reconnect our wounded warriors and other Americans to the outdoors, ensure clean, healthy rivers for the benefit of communities such as the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, and protect the clean, healthy rivers which provide the valuable fishing and other outdoor recreational activities that are so important to rebuilding our economy.

The panel on reconnecting our urban areas to nature, led by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, highlighted the importance of healthy rivers and clean water to our cities.

The panel on rural landscapes, led by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, highlighted the strong sense of stewardship that farmers and ranchers have for our land and water.

In addition, the river restoration breakout session, led by Secretary Salazar’s Senior Advisor for Rivers Rebecca Wodder and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Rock Salt, was a terrific opportunity for leaders of grassroots river restoration efforts around the country to share their impressions of what is working and where more assistance from the federal government is needed.

I heard from several of our conservation partners from around the country that they were pleased to have the opportunity to attend the conference and hear from the President and other officials about their strong commitment to river restoration. Several of our partners have already scheduled follow-up meetings and conversations with administration officials.

We are truly fortunate to have the Obama Administration providing passionate and committed leadership for river restoration as part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative.