As we look ahead to the coming years, I know that rural America has unlimited capacity to continue providing a great deal for every American – including even more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
We know that many Americans deeply value outdoor recreation. According to industry estimates more than 140 million Americans participate in some outdoor recreation activity annually. In fact, more than 38 percent of American adults participate in hunting and fishing alone.
These opportunities are important for those living in our cities, and for their families. Outdoor recreation helps us all to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors – from parks, to trails, to lakes and forests. Meanwhile, getting outdoors allows us to instill a love and appreciation of the environment for our youngsters.
Outdoor recreation also carries tremendous economic benefits for our nation – and particularly for rural communities. Americans spend more than $645 billion annually on outdoor recreation. This supports more than six million U.S. jobs, many of them in rural America.
There is a tremendous opportunity at hand to further expand markets and capacity in rural America to support outdoor recreation. By redoubling our efforts through the President’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, USDA is working closely with President Obama to help connect even more Americans to the great outdoors.
For example, we have joined interagency efforts to provide more information on outdoor recreation at www.recreation.gov.
Last year, we set aside one million acres in our Conservation Reserve Program to protect sensitive wildlife habitat and wetlands.
We’ve worked with more than 500,000 farmers and landowners to better protect the soil and water, including thousands who have worked with USDA to open their fields and lakes for hunting and fishing.
As we encourage Americans to get outdoors, we’ll continue strengthening these conservation efforts. For example, USDA has worked with other Government agencies to provide regulatory certainty for those who undertake conservation agreements with USDA. This allows folks in rural America to help support outdoor recreation and conservation, while having piece of mind that they can continue to farm, ranch or manage forests into the future.
In the days ahead, we will remain focused on creating new markets and new opportunity across rural America – and we won’t let up in our efforts to boost recreation in our country’s great outdoors.