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SPEECH
USDA Forest Service
Washington, D.C.

Partners Outdoors
Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell
Jim Bedwell, Director of Recreation & Heritage Resources, Forest Service
Partners Outdoors Conference
Snowbird, UT—January 14, 2008

 

Video: Partners Outdoors

 

Speaker: Gail Kimbell, Forest Service Chief

 

Thanks, Derrick. I wish I could be there in person, but short of that, I wanted to take an opportunity to share a few thoughts. I appreciate all the work in conservation leadership going on at this year’s Partners Outdoors. We all share in the responsibility of ensuring that our public lands are accessible, enjoyed, and protected for future generations. And for this work, I thank you.

 

I regularly meet with partners and others all over the country, and three broad concerns have stood out: climate change; water; and kids. These are long-term issues with significance for our quality of life. They cut across the shorter term challenges we face, testing our very ability to protect our natural resources for future generations. I want to say a few words about each.

 

It seems that every publication you pick up these days addresses climate change in some way. History will judge the leaders of our age by how well we respond to this challenge. Our researchers have studied climate change for years, and we know a lot about its causes and potential effects. Our resource managers have noted changes in vegetation, changes in snowpack and streamflows, changes in wildfire for at least the 34-year span of my own career. All of these changes affect the way people use the forest. As land managers and forestry professionals, there are things we can do to affect the causes of climate change-on the mitigation side-and to affect how ecosystems adjust to climate change-on the adaptation side. The Forest Service has begun to think through our options, and we are developing a strategic approach.

 

Water is linked to climate change. We may be entering a period of water scarcity not seen in our previous history, particularly as our population grows. The national forests were created for a number of reasons, but key amongst them was for the protection of watersheds for public benefit. Today, more than 60 million Americans obtain at least part of their drinking water from National Forest System lands. As natural resource professionals, we understand the interplay of forests and water on the land. We want to ensure that watersheds are managed for aquatic and riparian resources, as well as for downstream uses such as clean drinking water.

 

Climate change and water are long-term challenges. They will take generations to solve. Our success as conservationists depends on how well the next generation understands what is happening. Kids need to understand how much they depend on forests-how much pleasure there is to be had in forests-how much forests can contribute to their physical and spiritual well-being. I am concerned that kids today have little opportunity for unstructured outdoor activity away from supervised playgrounds and playing fields. A whole generation of kids might be growing up estranged from nature in a way they never were before. The Forest Service has a number of ongoing activities to reach children. We recently added another-“More Kids in the Woods.” Under the program, the Forest Service is working with partners on dozens of projects around the country to get kids into the woods-face to face with nature, up close and personal, experiencing the awe and wonder of the great outdoors, and hopefully forging a life-long connection to nature and to public lands. There has been a tremendous response to this program around the country.

 

In our work, the Forest Service will be keeping these three emphasis areas in mind: climate change, water, and kids. You helped shape these issues and you are a critical part of what will ultimately be our success. These issues are daunting and cross-cutting. It will take strong partnerships, and I ask you to think about how we might work together in these three areas. As you break out into your action teams, please know that the Forest Service stands ready to work with you all to take action on these important emphasis areas.

 

I am delighted to have Jim Bedwell, our Director of Recreation, Heritage and Volunteers, here with me. We are thrilled with the success of our More Kids in the Woods effort, and I want Jim to tell you what’s in store for the year ahead.

 

Speaker: Jim Bedwell, Director of Recreation & Heritage Resources, Forest Service

 

Thanks, Gail. Last year, along with the Directors of Conservation Education, Wildlife and Fish and Civil Rights, I led the implementation of our “More Kids in the Woods Challenge Cost Share” program. Working with children is certainly not new for the Forest Service; but, the increased interest in the health and well-being of our children has created new momentum and energy for providing outdoor recreation opportunities for young people. Our goal, is that they, like all of you develop an intimate connection with nature that lasts a lifetime. In 2007, we created a $1.5 Million dollar program that did just this, and we will do even more with user groups and the private sector in 2008. We have just issued a call for proposals for "More Kids in the Woods II" and I invite you to work through our local units on submitting projects.

 

We are also looking forward to participating in a National Get Outdoors Day as part of Great Outdoors Month: Reaching out to new and first time users by making it easy and fun for them to visit their public lands. The Forest Service is also looking for ways to support a national education and outreach effort to raise awareness and visitation to public lands. We hope to work with you all in doing this.

 

Thanks Derrick and all the participants for another relevant and motivational gathering and look forward to this year's results. We appreciate the strong tradition of action that comes from all Partners Outdoors gatherings. I wish I was there to enjoy the Wasatch Cache National Forest by going skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling with all of you tomorrow.

 

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US Forest Service
Last modified March 29, 2013
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