For the second year, the U.S. Forest Service is part of the administration’s Every Kid in a Park program, an initiative to provide American fourth graders with a free pass to more than 2,000 federal land and water sites for them, their siblings and up to three adults.
The pass includes access to 153 national forests, 20 grasslands and one tall grass prairie managed for the public by the Forest Service and other lands and waters managed by six other federal agencies. Some state parks also honor the pass.
As an added benefit, the Forest Service offers a free Christmas tree permit on participating national forests to any fourth grader with a valid Every Kid in Park pass. The free permit will come with an ornament specifically designed so the fourth grader can color, sign and hang the ornament on their tree as a reminder of their family’s outdoor adventure.
In the past year, the Forest Service has reached more than 50,000 fourth graders nationwide through one-on-one interaction, group field trips, school visits and special events including last year’s free Christmas tree permits.
“Around 1,300 free trees were given out last year to kids with an Every Kid durable pass or the paper pass they can download from the website,” said Al Remley, the agency’s fee program manager. “The pride we saw on the face of the fourth graders cannot be understated. They knew they could do something special for their families: a family field trip to a national forest to select and cut down their tree, then home to decorate the tree. How could it get any better?”
President Obama announced the Every Kid in a Park initiative in early 2015 as part of the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration. The idea expanded beyond the birthday to include the seven land and water management agencies: the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Department of Education also supports the program.
“We are having a great time connecting to our youth,” said Ellen Shaw, who leads the Forest Service Every Kid in a Park effort. “Getting kids outdoors to experience camping, hiking, fishing and other outdoor adventures is an important part of our work at the Forest Service. Making that connection is key to the future of our country’s natural heritage.”