Brainstorming about our public land and water

A listening session, part of a federal initiative, comes to campus.

Ryan Kennedy

America has a long and storied history with the great outdoors. Wild stretches of land and abundant wildlife are a part of our social fabric as well as a vital part of our nation’s consciousness. However, overdevelopment, pollution and climate change are putting our land and our water at a greater risk than ever before. The policies of land management laid down during the past century are not enough to deal with the drastically altered landscape we face in the coming century. President Barack Obama’s Administration must take a leadership role in crafting a vision for protecting and reconnecting people to lands in a warming world. By doing so, it can establish its place in history as a protector of the places Americans cherish.
Last spring, the administration announced the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which has the potential to act as a model and to shape the future of how we think about protecting lands and wildlife. It can also be a powerful venue for Americans to participate in what that vision looks like. As part of the initiative, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, the Council on Environmental Quality and other government agencies will be traveling across the country this summer holding listening sessions for citizens to let their voices be heard.
From 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, one of these listening sessions will be held at Ted Mann Concert Hall on the West Bank. There, agency representatives will sit down at the same table with students, hunters, anglers, business owners, community leaders, faith leaders, underrepresented communities and other stakeholders. This is the best opportunity for Minnesotans to have input as to how our state can best be managed to protect our lands, wildlife and the economies that rely on them.
Smart management of our forests, rivers and wildlife has never been more challenging or more important than it is today. In the face of global warming, we have to transform the way we think about conservation. As climate change alters food sources and habitat for wildlife like moose and lynx, we need to protect core areas of significant ecological resources. We must limit stresses like toxic pollution from proposed sulfide mining, and we must ensure migration routes that will help animals adapt and survive. All federal agencies with land and water management responsibilities should coordinate with their state and local counterparts to develop and implement ecosystem-wide, climate-smart management programs. By protecting these precious resources, the Obama Administration can rebuild local economies and create jobs right here in Minnesota.
It is also more important than ever to make our country’s wild places accessible to families and young people. Our public lands are one of our nation’s greatest treasures. Every family and every child should be able to share in the wonder of special Minnesota places like the Boundary Waters and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. If we act as good stewards of our public lands, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren enjoy these special places.
The listening session is free and open to the public. Please attend and make your voice heard.
Ryan Kennedy graduate student