Natalie Gelb, Executive Director of the Lackawanna Heritage Area National and State Heritage Area (LHV), participated in the White House Conference on Conservation in Washington, D.C., March 2. President Barack Obama and several of his Cabinet members convened the conference to engage directly with select conservation leaders from all 50 states to strengthen partnerships and to identify next steps in advancing community-driven conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives. National Heritage Areas are central to the efforts of the National Park Service in building strong local economies and healthy lands, waters and wildlife across America.
In reporting on the results of America‚??s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative that was launched by President Obama in 2010, Gelb observed, ‚??The Lackawanna Heritage Valley plays an integral part of the AGO mandate to protect and restore the places communities depend on and will enjoy for generations to come. LHV educates the public about our significant historical and cultural sites. It sponsors the Northeastern Pennsylvania Conservation Alliance that is composed of more than 75 organizations that promote stewardship of the environment. The Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, LHV‚??s signature project, is an outstanding use of public lands that connect people to the Lackawanna River by providing recreational opportunities, connecting nature to commerce in communities along the trail, interpreting historic and industrial sites, as well as protecting natural habitats and the river itself.‚?Ě
‚??People across the country are coming together to protect and preserve the places that nurture our souls, provide opportunities for recreation, and power our economies,‚?Ě said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who hosted the conference at the Interior Department. ‚??Today we heard from the people who are making a real difference in their communities and discussed how we can be better partners in fulfilling a shared vision for conservation in the 21st century.‚?Ě
"President Obama launched the America‚??s Great Outdoors Initiative to foster a 21st century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people,‚?Ě said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. ‚??Protecting our natural resources creates jobs in rural communities, preserves habitat for fish and wildlife, and ensures that our nation‚??s outdoor heritage will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.‚?Ě
‚??Expanding access to outdoor recreation and green spaces can benefit the health and economies of people and communities across the nation. That is especially true in our nation‚??s cities where parks and waterfront areas can inject new life into urban communities,‚?Ě said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. ‚??We are excited that the 21st century conservation strategy we are building continues to be shaped by meeting people where they live, and finding out how we serve their needs.‚?Ě
In a breakout work session with Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, Gelb and eight of her National Heritage Area colleagues shared their perspectives on the role of the Heritage Areas as NPS celebrates its Second Century beginning in 2012. LHV and Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton work together on a variety of programs and projects to attract people to the region to learn more about its rich industrial history and to enhance the economy through heritage tourism.
The Lackawanna Heritage Valley National and State Heritage Area works with community partners on projects that conserve, preserve, and educate the public about the region‚??s historic, cultural, economic and natural resources. For general information about the organization, visit www.LHVA.org.