On January 8-11, 2006, key figures in America’s recreation community – top federal and state agency representatives, recreation industry executives, and non-profit recreation leaders drawn from both the public and private sectors – will be gathering in Phoenix for three days of sharing and brainstorming at the fifteenth annual conference of Partners Outdoors. Their goal will be to harness the power of new recreation tools to connect 21st century Americans to public lands and to enhance the way great experiences for visitors are delivered.

Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, will give the keynote address. Also participating are Fran Mainella, Director of the National Park Service; Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Tom Dyer of the Bureau of Land Management; John Keys, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation; Steve Stockton, Deputy Director of Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief, USDA Forest Service and top private sector officials.

Partners Outdoors 2006 will focus on showcasing new tools for the Toolbox and examples of their successful use on the ground. But Partners Outdoors won’t stop there. Participants will be exploring new approaches for getting this valuable information into people’s hands – and minds. As a result, not only will Partners Outdoors 2006 bring visionary recreation program managers – from headquarters and the field alike - to Partners Outdoors, but it will bring the best minds from the ranks of agency trainers and partnership specialists and the private sector to Phoenix as well. This powerful partnership of recreation interests will create a new web-based version of the Toolbox for the Great Outdoors, together with an action plan for making the best use of this new resource.

Highlights of the session and a preview of the primary work product of the group – a new web-based reference guide to funding and other resources available to enhance recreation opportunities on public lands – are the subject of a two-hour broadcast on January 12th from the Bureau of Land Management’s National Training Center. The broadcast will highlight results of conference sessions and feature the comments and perspectives of key federal agency heads and department level leaders, including excerpts from Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett’s keynote address. On-camera panelists will illustrate the features, advantages and benefits of the many ‘drawers’ in the toolbox. They will show how recreation programs on public lands can benefit from funding and other support available through programs administered by transportation, health, education, corrections and wildlife agencies – even by the Department of Defense. The telecast will also feature information on the current Take Pride in America campaign and the involvement of actor/director Clint Eastwood in that national effort. Moderator of the session will be the Center’s Director, Don Charpio. The program will be available to the public by webcast. A special link to the Forest Service Recreation Home page will be provided for anyone wishing to view the webcast after 4pm EST on January 12th. Viewers will need at least version 9 of Windows Media Player to view the program. To access the link, [click here].

The Toolbox for the Great Outdoors – a compendium of great ideas for leveraging resources for recreation projects and programs on federal lands – made its debut at Partners Outdoors in 2002. Since then, thousands of copies of this “how-to” guide have been distributed within federal agencies and private organizations in a CD-format, helping recipients do a better job of providing recreation resources and opportunities for the millions of people who enjoy recreation in the great outdoors.

Since 1992, ARC has annually hosted an important gathering of leaders from the federal government’s recreation-management agencies, the recreation industry, and recreation enthusiast groups to learn from – and about – each other and to explore ways that they can work as partners on behalf of the millions of people who enjoy outdoor recreation. ARC has always endeavored to make Partners Outdoors a conference with high-level participants and decision-makers addressing cutting-edge issues and finding effective solutions. The tangible results of Partners Outdoors are many. Major actions have occurred as direct outgrowths of Partners Outdoors meetings; dozens of other advances have developed as participants maintained contact long after the formal sessions adjourned. Among the outcomes are the recreation fee demonstration program, the National Recreation Lakes Study, the Legends Awards, the WOW - Wonderful Outdoor World program for urban children, and the Toolbox for the Great Outdoors. Like its predecessors, Partners Outdoors 2006 should have a real impact on public policy by introducing new ideas and new approaches that benefit outdoor recreation resources, facilities and experiences.