Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

America's Great Outdoors

last year, President Obama announced the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, laying out a bold vision to reconnect Americans with the natural world and protect our environment for future generations.

"Americans are blessed with a vast and varied natural heritage," he said. "From mountains to deserts and from sea to shining sea, America's great outdoors have shaped the rugged independence and sense of community that define the American spirit."

The initiative demonstrates a strong commitment to getting our nation back out and into nature, for the health of our children, our environment and our economy. It's a goal that everyone can support.

But America's great outdoors don't stop at the shoreline. Ever since the birth of our nation, the ocean has been an integral part of the fabric of American life.

From the placid, sun-kissed waters of the Florida Keys to the rugged, storm-tossed seas off Washington's Olympic Coast, the ocean has nurtured and sustained us for centuries, providing a source of transportation, trade, food and entertainment. The nation's coastal waters were our first highways, its beaches our first playgrounds, and its abundant fisheries our first restaurants.

Generations of Americans, from poets to presidents, have listened to the whisper of the sea and taken inspiration from it. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ernest Hemingway, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President John F. Kennedy - the list of great citizens who cared deeply about the ocean goes on.

Today, many of us shuttle back and forth between our homes and offices in temperature- controlled automobiles, scarcely catching a breath of fresh air. But even as we drift apart from nature in our daily lives, we continue to be drawn to the water.

Nearly 160 million people - over half of the U.S. population - now live within coastal communities. More than one-third of the American people participate in some form of ocean activity every year, from swimming to fishing to simply lounging at the water's edge.

They go for fun, fresh air, and a feeling of peace that only the great outdoors can provide. Something about the salt spray and the cool breeze rejuvenates the spirit and nourishes the soul. Coastal tourism invigorates the economy, as well, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue.

The United States is a nation of sweeping plains and towering mountain ranges, of vast deserts and dense forests. But it's also a nation of more than 12,000 miles of coastline and spectacular, thriving ocean treasures like our national marine sanctuaries.

America's great outdoors stretch from sea to shining sea, but the sea is not a boundary. Rather, the ocean is a part of our nation's rich tapestry of wild places. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy it, care for it, and protect it for generations to come.

What Makes the Ocean Great?
Jack Curlett
Recreational Fisherman
Key Largo, FL
says The greatest thing about our ocean is the
diversity of its inhabitants and their ability to
live in such close proximity to one another
in their shared environment. Each and every
time I either put on a scuba tank and go
under the water’s surface or sit in a boat
and cast a line into the water it is a true
mystery.Capt. Jim Coon
Whale Watch Tour Operator
Maui, HI
 says The vastness of the ocean and its constantly
changing moods create a stimulating
environment that, even after a lifetime
working on it, continues to thrill me. The
variety of ocean life that surrounds us
from the very smallest invertebrate to the
magnificent humpback whale reinforces
my passion to educate, share and protect
these amazing — but fragile — resources.


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Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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