06/16/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Our Public Lands Can Enhance America's Great Outdoors

The Obama Administration's kick-off of America's Great Outdoors comes less than a week before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Together, the Administration, sportsmen, private landowners, tribal leaders, recreationists, and organizations like The Wilderness Society are addressing conservation in the 21st century. As the primary stewards of our public lands and conservation heritage, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Council on Environmental Quality Chairperson Nancy Sutley will lead in protecting and restoring our shared, natural wonders for future generations.

The President has encouraged and invited every American to engage in this effort: local businesses, private land owners, public land users, city-dwellers, suburban families, and rural communities. I am delighted to share my deep passion and experience with our over 600 million acres of public lands--lands owned by all Americans.

There is no better way to appreciate the great outdoors than by visiting our diverse public lands. Along with providing a canvas for spectacular views, wild areas allow hundreds of millions of people every year to enjoy their favorite recreation activities - such as hunting, bird watching, hiking, photography, bike riding and picnicking with friends and family. Not only do America's wild lands sustain our communities, but they also provide a cultural and historical connection to who we are, and where we've been.

The Wilderness Society is asking the Obama administration to enrich America's Great Outdoors by looking at our wild lands for long-term benefits. We have offered the Administration constructive and positive recommendations when designing and carrying-out the initiative's vision:

It is important that the Administration focus on large areas that have core wild land components - the very lands that provide our pure drinking water and healthy wildlife habitat. The administration should also utilize and empower local stakeholders - such as recreationists and businesses, hunting and angling groups, ranchers and landowners - to lead on restoration and conservation efforts, and work to identify and implement opportunities on our public lands that spur economic growth and enhance the ability of species to adapt to climate change. Finally, the Obama administration should maximize interagency and intergovernmental cooperation to manage our wild areas, and seek opportunities for protecting our public land values through conservation designations, such as national parks, national monuments and wilderness.

In order to accomplish this, The Wilderness Society offered to the Administration examples of wild areas where the shared goals of America's Great Outdoors can be successfully implemented.

As I said yesterday in the Washington Post:

"America's public lands serve as a smart 21st-century investment, because on top of all the benefits they already provide, they can sustain our communities into the future by anchoring local economies."

We should strive to leave the next generation healthier and better connected to the natural world. The more time we spend on our public lands, the more inspired we will be to help preserve invaluable wild lands so that our kids will be able to enjoy our wilderness for generations to come.