The Obamas have also jumped on board: President Obama announced his America’s Great Outdoors program last year, and First Lady Michelle Obama has thrown herself into her Let’s Move initiative. America’s Great Outdoors seeks to engage the public to work together to conserve and restore our lands and to connect to the outdoors. Let’s Move! focuses on solving the problem of childhood obesity, a segment of which aims to improve physical and mental health through outdoor activities.
And Now A New Initiative!
Doing his part to promote these goals, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on March 2 announced the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commitment to get kids outdoors through $1 million in cost-share funding from the U.S. Forest Service to enhance children’s programs in 18 states.
Vilsack made his announcement at the Interior Department during a White House conference, Growing America’s Outdoor Heritage and Economy, which emphasized the link between conservation and strong local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation, and healthy lands, waters and wildlife.
Today’s Children Are Tomorrow’s Stewards Of The Land
“These programs provide an essential connection to our great outdoors, which we hope can be a key part of growing up for children from all walks of life,” said Vilsack. “We need kids to experience the wonders of the great outdoors and take ownership of the future of natural resources. Today’s children are tomorrow’s stewards of the land.”
It’s great to hear a federal official pronounce these words, and even better to see him put some funds behind his words.
The money will be distributed to the agency’s More Kids in the Woods and Children’s Forests programs.
“These grants strengthen our bonds with communities with a bottom line goal of getting kids to explore and appreciate America’s great outdoors,” said US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “There are few things more gratifying for me than seeing our youth gain an appreciation for the amazing landscapes we have in this country.”
More Kids in the Woods projects include activities and programs designed to spark curiosity about nature and promote learning.
Children’s Forests differ in that they are centered around developed outdoor spaces on national or state forests, in urban parks or at schools. The core mission of a Children’s Forest is to get young people to take a leadership role in forest management by giving them a voice in caring for the land.
Where The 2012 More Kids In The Woods Grants Are Going:
* More Kids in the Central Alabama Woods, National Forests in Alabama
* Yakutat Future Scientists, Tongass National Forest, Alaska
* Angoon Outdoor Skills Initiative, Tongass National Forest, Alaska
* Yellow Belly Ponderosa Performance Outreach, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
* Big Bear Discovery Center’s Nature Explore Classroom, San Bernardino National Forest, California
* A Century of Leaders: Invoking the Vision of Teddy Roosevelt, Sequoia National Forest, California
* Stormwater Habitat Education Development, or WaterSHED, Rocky Mountain Research Station and Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado
* Boise Youth Engagement in Nature, Boise National Forest, Idaho
* Mountains to Meadows: The Boulder Creek Study, Payette National Forest, Idaho
* Our LAND – Learn, Admire, Nurture, Dream, Forest Service Regional Office and the Huron-Manistee and Hiawatha National Forests, Michigan
* Pioneering Discoveries: A Natural and Cultural Resources Field Camp for Tribal High School Students, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Montana
* Discovering Flathead’s Feathered Friends, Enhancing Schoolyard and National Forest Habitat, Flathead National Forest, Montana
* Kids in the Headwaters, Lolo National Forest, Montana
* Get Outdoors With Conservation, Climate & Careers!, Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, Nebraska
* Children’s Water Festival Enhancement Project, Gila National Forest, New Mexico
* Connecting Kids to the River Forest, Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico
* Stewardship in the Woods on 3 Forests, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon
* Immersion in Nature, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
* Partners in Education, Northern Research Station, Pennsylvania
* Sewee Earth Stewards, Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina
* More Kids in the Pineywoods, Angelina-Sabine National Forest, Texas
* The EVOLVE Project, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah
* National Fishing in Schools Program, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming
Lucky kids who get to participate in these programs!
Photo Credit: TogetherGreen