White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley Speaks at Recreation Exchange

July 20, 2011 (Washington, D.C.) - The Honorable Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), was the special guest at the Great Outdoors Month Recreation Exchange on June 16, 2011 hosted by the American Recreation Coalition in Washington, D.C. Exchanges featuring guests who are influencing recreation public policy in America have been held since 1979.

Ms. Sutley serves as the principal environmental policy adviser to the President of the United States. CEQ coordinates Federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives. CEQ works to balance environmental, economic, and social objectives in pursuit of "productive harmony" between humans and the human environment. Chair Sutley was one of the four Cabinet-rank leaders tapped by President Barack Obama to lead his America's Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative and, in fact, CEQ played a central coordinating role in the planning and conducting of extensive public involvement and the preparation of the report to the President in February 2011. Chair Sutley was named a co-recipient of the 2011 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award for her leadership efforts on behalf of the AGO.

Top federal agency representatives and recreation community leaders gathered in the South Interior Building auditorium to hear Chair Sutley's remarks on the AGO initiative and for the presentation of ARC's 2011 Legends Awards. Chair Sutley began the discussion by touching on her recent trip to Newark, New Jersey, where she helped open an area urban park. She recounted her experience at the park, remarking that it was a surprise to “feel peace and serenity in a park in [such] a rough area.” The opportunity to enjoy nature must be made available to Americans – eighty percent of whom now live in cities and suburbs. Chair Sutley pointed out that, accordingly, urban parks must be made a priority. If we do not “protect, restore and link these special places” – like the park in Newark – we risk raising a generation of Americans who have no connection to nature, she said. The AGO initiative prioritizes the development of urban parks and other areas where Americans can reconnect with nature, Chair Sutley said – but these developments must be community-driven and supported by partnerships. She emphasized the importance of federal, private and nonprofit partnerships to the AGO initiative. The initiative comes with no extra funding, and tackles complex issues like pollution, development and climate change. “We value your partnership, and we need your help,” she said. “The solution [to these issues] will be bottom up, and will start in communities.” Chair Sutley urged recreation community leaders to tap into their networks to drive the AGO initiative forward, by partnering with communities to start to solve these complex problems.

Chair Sutley said AGO’s report, released in February, lays the groundwork for federal agencies and partners to work together to create strategies to protect outdoor spaces and recreation. “I want to continue the conversation,” she said. She noted that a major theme heard nationwide in the listening sessions for the AGO initiative was the need for urban parks and waters – places city dwellers could easily access. Chair Sutley remarked on the personal benefit she received from the many listening sessions, saying, “I got a lot out of it. No matter where we were, people just wanted to talk about the places they care about.” It is clear that outdoor spaces are still very important to Americans, and in particular, spaces like urban parks are “places that enrich our lives, keep us healthy and happy, and lift our spirits,” Chair Sutley said. “[We must] conserve and protect them.”

The outcome of all this discussion, she said, was the AGO report. “Washington is great at producing reports,” she said. “But this is an action plan. [The federal government needs to determine how] we can be better partners.” Highlights of the report include:
a. Telling the American people what the AGO Council heard;
b. Prioritizing a new generation of great community parks;
c. Restoring America’s rivers and creating blueways; and
d. Providing better support for private landowners who are protecting land.
These highlights and others are contained in a report that Chair Sutley calls "a promise to our future."

Chair Sutley also took a moment to touch on the history of American conservation efforts. Citing Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt, she praised President Obama’s AGO initiative as “continuing the work of our great conservation presidents,” commenting that these are leaders who are able to make the decision to preserve and enrich our public lands even during the most difficult times in American history. She noted that in the midst of the turmoil of the Civil War, President Lincoln took action to set aside the lands that would one day become Yosemite National Park. Great leaders, she said, understand that a “healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand,” and the AGO initiative is one more step to ensuring the recovery of our nation’s economy by promoting our public lands.

Chair Sutley concluded her remarks by recognizing the efforts of those assembled – including representatives of seven federal agencies and various nonprofit and private organizations – to work in a spirit of collaboration. She also commended the monthly efforts of the Recreation Exchange to spark constructive dialogue. Chair Sutley declared CEQ’s intent to “continue to work with you to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our lands and for all Americans.”

Information on past and future Exchanges is available at: www.funoutdoors.com
If you would like to contact Chair Sutley, she can be reached as follows:

The Honorable Nancy Sutley
Chair
Council on Environmental Quality
722 Jackson Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20506-0003

Recreation Exchanges are made possible by the following sponsors:
American Association for Nude Recreation
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
Bureau of Reclamation
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Park Service
National Tour Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Forest Service