LIVE White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors

About the Author

Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) has more than 25 years experience as a writer, editor, social media manager, community builder, and advocate for getting children into nature. She is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which was named a TIME magazine Top 10 Trend of 2012. She has written for the New York Times Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog and others. Suz serves as the Director of Social Media Promotion and Partnerships for the Children & Nature Network.

The Conference has ended. It was exciting to follow along and provide updates. A complete transcript of President Obama’s opening remarks can be seen here. C&NN Vice President and co-founder Martin LeBlanc, who is at the conference, wrote, “My main observation is that connecting children to the outdoors is fundamental to every Conservation priority the Obama Administration has.”

9:00 (EDT) Interior Secretary Salazar is delivering opening remarks. The conference is off to a timely start.

9:10 Many of my fondest memories took place outside — Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley.

9:25  “Our open spaces have inspired our artists and encouraged our pioneers.” –E.P.A. Secretary Lisa Jackson

9:30 Attendees are watching a video about the outdoors. Theodore Roosevelt: These are “our essential democracy”.

9:35  Video: “Our children spend half as much time outside as their parents once did.”

10:15  President Obama is addressing the conference.

10:20 President Obama: Theodore Roosevelt “stood in awe of the geysers at Yellowstone. He camped in a snow blizzard at Yosemite. He stood on the lip of the Grand Canyon.” … “From that commitment sprang a breathtaking legacy of conservation that enhances our lives.” … “I do intend to enrich that legacy and I feel an abiding bond with the land.”

President Obama: “When we see America’s land, we understand what an incredible bounty that we have been given.  And it’s our obligation to make sure that the next generation enjoys that same bounty.”

10:23  President Obama is outlining American Great Outdoors Initiative. Evoking National Parks and Land Trusts.

10:25 President Obama: “We’ll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the Let’s Move initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.”

“We want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago.”

10:30 President Obama signed a memo creating a Great Outdoors Initiative.

10:30 There is a break in the action.

11:15 Panel 1 about to begin: Conserving working lands for the benefit of all Americans.

11:35  Writer and historian Douglas Brinkley: “What would Secy. Udall do?”

11:55 Agriculture Secy. Vilsack is asking the panel if our increased urbanization presents challenges to conservation.

11:58  The conference is addressing the urban/rural connection and its role as far as land and fresh food.

12:00 Jaime Pinkham,  Vice President of the Archibald Bush Foundation: “We are all connected by the rivers … salmon know no political boundaries.”

Ray McCormick,  Indiana Farmer and Conservationist: “If there is no longer a bobwhite quail, there isn’t going to be a little boy following it (down to a stream.)”

12:10 Newark Mayor Cory Booker is talking about community gardens and urban farmlands as a way of connecting children to their food sources. He notes that some underserved children don’t recognize pictures of vegetables.

12:20 Panel’s closing remarks: Douglas Brinkley: “We have to do this for our children’s children.”

Mayor Booker spoke about a person “tending to his piece of the earth”, which “transformed a major area of our city”  and was indicative of “realizing that life is about small acts of kindness, decency and love.”

12:40 Panel 2 is beginning: Connecting Lands and People. Teddy Roosevelt IV is addressing the group.

12:40 NM Governor Bill Richardson is addressing the conference, calling for Wilderness Bill, moving ahead on National Monuments plan. “We must seek agreements with first Americans.”

Governor Richardson spoke to habitat preservation on land and in the oceans. He also spoke about the issue of privatization: “Tracts of private land are being carved into the habitat. There are new roads and unbridled development.”

12:55 Bill Cronin, Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of  Wisconsin-Madison: “Nature is not just out there, but in every place where all of us live.”

1:00 REI CEO Sally Jewell just mentioned Richard Louv’s “Last Child in Woods” and Nature-Deficit Disorder, noting that acclaimed nature photographer Ansel Adams was a child who needed to be in nature rather than learning in a traditional environment.

1:10 Ernesto Pepito,  Youth Program Director at Golden Gate National Parks  Conservancy, is talking about caring for community as first step to caring for environment: Is academic pressure keeping kids from getting into the outdoors? “My presence here is a signal of our willingness to engage young people in this issue.” But, We need to give more young people “a giant blue chair” on the stage.

1:15 Like Ernesto Pepito, Sally Jewell also just addressed screen time and academic pressure as competition for children’s time in nature. As business leaders, “We have an opportunity to connect people to nature close to home.”

1:20 Governor Richardson suggested reinstating a Civilian Conservation Corps (and received applause.)

1:22 Secy. Salazar asked: How do we bring young people into the outdoors?

Gary Myers,  Former Executive Director of Tennessee Wildlife Resources  Agency: Get them hunting and fishing early.

Ernesto Pepito: I didn’t grow up loving America’s great outdoors. It was a simple introduction through summer employment that engaged me in this lifelong work. I believe young people can still be inspired by .. going outdoors .. having a park that is safe, having a garden so they can know where their food comes from.” “We get caught up in restoring this land, but forget who this land is being restored for.” Ernesto Pepito called for everyone to have true relationships with young people to engage them one-on-one.

Ernesto Pepito: “We need to change the culture of how people engage youth.”

Gary Myers expressed delight that we have a President who supports conservation and youth involvement.

Bill Cronin: “We have to get people to all parts of the land” —  urban, rural, etc. Ask, “How can your organization give kids the idea that they are changing the world?”

1:30 Sally Jewell is talking about individual connections to the land, through Youth Conservation Corps. and others. “There’s no better thing that we could be working on.”

1:35 Gov. Richardson: “I have seen strong integration of minorities into the conservation movement.”

1:40 Secy. Salazar joked: As part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, we have canceled lunch.

1:45 Secy. Salazar’s closing remarks included: “Our work has just begun. Results matter. We will get it done.”


  1. This is so important for the well rounded growth and development of a child, getting the feel of being outdoors, and touching nature. I spent 30 years working with parents and preschool aged children professionally.

  2. Suz Lipman

    Hi Mary. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for coming here and expressing that and for all your good work.

  3. So excited to hear about this conference. I didn’t realize it was happening.I am planning some day camps on our family farm this summer for kids with severe behavioral issues. I plan to begin healing them by connecting them to nature!

  4. Suz Lipman

    Hi Tammy. It’s great to see you here. (I recognize you from the C&NN discussion forum and elsewhere.) Your camps sound wonderful and special. I’m glad you were able to learn a bit about the White House conference. The developments are very exciting for those of us who are working to connect children and nature.

  5. This is so exciting. We will continue to bring children and nature together. LEAVE no child inside!

  6. This looks like it was an amazing conference, and so important and heart warming to get this kind of political endorsement. I was particularly happy to read that the conference kept talking about the importance of just being in nature, rather than more structured time on nature education. It’s been very welcome also to be able to follow through the web, so big well done to the organisers.

    This is a key issue for us in the UK too, with children rarely allowed outside alone and young people so often never having had the 3 dimensional engagement with the world around them that they need for their healthy mental development or physical wellbeing. If anyone wants to connect about about these issues in the UK please give us a call at Play England –

    Right, I’m off outside to enjoy my garden here in London, eerily and rather wonderfully free of airoplane hum!

  7. Suz Lipman

    Hi Cath, Vernon and the folks at “got play”. I deeply appreciate your taking the time to visit and express your thoughts. We are obviously all in accord and doing what we can to forward the movement.

    Cath, we’re very interested in the goings on in the UK. You might want to come over to our discussion forum to find people in your area to share resources with. ( We also recently covered the issue of parental fear of the outdoors in the UK on our web site. The story is here:

    Vernon, that’s a terrific blog and piece about Nature Deficit Disorder and our work and movement. I appreciate you writing and sharing it.

    I hope all three of you will come over to our discussion forum, You obviously have a lot to offer and share.


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