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IMBA's Mike Van Abel Participates in Shaping Obama's 'America’s Great Outdoors' Initiative

For Immediate Release 4-29-10
Mark Eller
IMBA Communications Director
markeller [at] imba [dot] com
303-545-9011 ext. 115

IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel joined President Obama for the signing of the "America’s Great Outdoors" initiative at a conference in Washington, DC on April 16. Van Abel and about 200 other executives were invited to participate in discussions led by the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). According to a presidential memorandum, the program aims to bring citizens from all over the United States together to, "... develop new partnerships and innovative programs to protect and restore our outdoors legacy."

"President Obama gave an inspiring speech at the announcement ceremony," said Van Abel. "His enthusiasm was palpable, and I'm sure his team of advisors will agree that the work that IMBA and its affiliated clubs have done for more than two decades -- including building hundreds of sustainable trails on public lands for the benefit of all -- is a perfect match for the conservation and stewardship goals of this initiative."

The America’s Great Outdoors memorandum states that non-profit organizations like IMBA will play a vital role. It states: "We must look to the private sector and nonprofit organizations, as well as towns, cities, and States, and the people who live and work in them, to identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the Federal Government to help these community-driven efforts to succeed. Through these partnerships, we will work to connect these outdoor spaces to each other, and to reconnect Americans to them."

Timing Fits Well With New IMBA Program

The timing for the White House announcement fits well with a major new IMBA program, the Public Lands Initiative (PLI). Announced last week, the PLI has inspired broad participation from the bike and outdoor industry and with IMBA's individual members. It brings substantial new resources to guide on-the-ground efforts, with the goal of enhancing mountain bike opportunities for everyone to enjoy.

"We will make the most of this confluence of ideas and energy," said Van Abel. "The IMBA network is devoted to the conservation and stewardship of our public lands, as well as reconnecting kids and their families with nature through a healthy, low-impact activity." Van Abel stated, "Leadership from the White House can only help as IMBA continues its efforts to assist federal agencies in improving their understanding of mountain biking. Land managers still struggle at times to formulate bike-friendly management practices, but there are many encouraging signs coming from Washington, including IMBA's recently renewed partnership agreement with the National Parks Service.

Mountain Biking Key to Achieving Youth Participation

Increased youth participation in outdoor stewardship and recreation is a key goal of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. According to a recently released study by the Outdoor Industry Association, the Special Report on Youth, mountain biking holds great appeal to young people and helps get them involved in a range of healthy activities.

The study cites mountain biking on off-road surfaces as one of the top five activities that frequently attracts young people to play actively outdoors. It notes that while overall youth (ages 6 to 17) participation in outdoor activities has dropped by 16.7 percent in the last three years, mountain biking is a bright spot, with a 17.4-percent increase between 2007 and 2008.

The report also states that access to suitable cycling facilities is one of the key factors in encouraging youth to lead healthy lifestyles. "This is an important moment for IMBA and its clubs," said Van Abel. "Few organizations can match our success with delivering great trail experiences. I expect that the momentum that the White House has provided will push us to new heights."

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