06/22/2010 11:04 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Youth Unite! Outdoor Nation Happens at Central Park This Weekend

This weekend, hundreds of young people from across the United States will travel to New York to attend Outdoor Nation - a national youth conservation summit and festival in Central Park. The mission is to "unite young people from across the country with a common mission: to champion the outdoors and start a youth-driven movement."

For that reason, it is fitting that the Obama administration will hold a youth-oriented listening session as part of its America's Great Outdoors initiative on the second day of the summit. Officials from the Department of the Interior will listen to new ideas from future conservation leaders.

This summer the administration will be traveling across the United States learning about local conservation efforts and ideas as part of its America's Great Outdoors initiative. They will gather ideas at listening sessions, and the information learned will help to inform a November report outlining the best ways to connect people -- especially our youth -- with nature.

America's Great Outdoors embodies a rare show of unity within our government. Several U.S. agencies have come together to form a 21st century conservation strategy, including the First Lady's Let's Move Outside! initiative. Linking Let's Move Outside! and America's Great Outdoors provides an opportunity to protect, connect and restore our public lands while ensuring that young people today and tomorrow can benefit from our natural heritage.

The Wilderness Society will be well represented at the listening session at Outdoor Nation. Two of our young conservation leaders will be attending: M'Shae Alderman, our Campaign coordinator and Lindsey Levick, our Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) coordinator.

M'Shae recently spoke about why we need to protect our wild lands, and how America's Great Outdoors can help us do so.

Together, M'Shae and Lindsey will make The Wilderness Society's message clear: that we want America's Great Outdoors to focus on connecting, protecting and restoring our public lands for generations to come. In the wake of the Gulf oil spill that has besieged the Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge, we have a shared responsibility to protect our fragile natural lands, and our young people are leading that charge.

America's young people understand that our public lands offer countless benefits to us. They provide clean drinking water and healthy air to the surrounding communities. They protect our communities and wildest places, plants and species in the face of climate. They provide various recreational opportunities -- such as hiking, boating, fishing and camping. And they provide jobs through recreation and restoration activities that boost local economies. And protecting, connecting and restoring our public lands will ensure that we keep these benefits for generations to come.

This piece originally appeared on The Wilderness Society's blog.