Inclusiveness. Science. Education. Tourism. All part of award-winning projects and programs Forest Service units contributed to and that were recognized by the Public Lands Alliance.
The alliance, a leader in growing effective and successful partnerships and a vital network for nonprofit leaders and land managers, recently announced the recipients of its 2017 Partnership Awards in six categories during a ceremony in Virginia.
Forest Service partnerships were highlighted in three of the four top winners in the Public Lands Partner Award category, which recognizes exemplary partnership for stunning achievement to protect and preserve public lands and enhance visitor experience. The projects are:
- Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and the Green Mountain National Forest for an exemplary partnership and innovative new program to serve the Deaf community. The eight-member Deaf Inclusion Crew combined youth and leaders who use American Sign Language and speak English. Corps members learn leadership and resource management skills while working as stewards on the land. The forest has a long-standing relationship with the corps to enroll youth and young adults in residential conservation programs on the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes national forests in Vermont and New York.
- Canyonlands National Historic Association & Canyonlands, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Manti-La Sal National Forest for the Discovery Pool Research Program, which encourages and funds research partnerships between qualified scientists and federal land management partners, including the Forest Service. More than $74,000 went to Forest Service projects.
- Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists and the Coronado National Forest. With more than 150 members, they lead nature walks, set up informational exhibits, provide demonstrations, support special events, and present educational programs to kindergarten and elementary school students. In 2016, the naturalists contributed 14,470 volunteer hours to the management and implementation of their educational programing and stewardship. The classes are taught by local faculty and experts, and include a variety of topics such as desert mammalogy, arthropods, herpetology, ornithology, plant biology, and desert, riparian and local ecologies as well as the history of Sabino Canyon and its ancient peoples.
Other winners include:
- Outstanding Public Engagement Award, Product or Display: Outdoor Recreation Map, Southern Appalachian Public Lands by Partners of the Cherokee National Forest with the forest and multiple partners, including the Cradle of Forestry and the Great Smokey Mountains Association. The map is an unprecedented collaboration between 11 public lands groups and nonprofit partners to develop a map for travel that not only shows the scenic Appalachian Mountains but also the 3 million acres of public lands that surround the area.
- Outstanding Public Engagement Award, Program or Service, Honorable Mention: Greenhouses to Greenscapes by Discover Your Forest, the nonprofit partner of the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests. Greenhouses to Greenscapes is a program for special needs youth in Central Oregon designed to engage underserved and disabled youth and connect them to their National Forests. The Greenhouses to Greenscapes program uses horticultural therapy in supervised activities, in the greenhouse, classroom and on the Deschutes. Discover Your Forest works with schools to rehabilitate school greenhouses and grow native plants, which are then planted by students on their public lands.
- Innovative Product Award, Honorable Mention: Discovery Agents Mobile Game by Agents of Discovery and American Recreation Coalition in partnership with the Forest Service. The free app sends kids, 6-14 years old, on an adventure, which brings educational, movement-based interactive gaming to dozens of national forests and grasslands. The agency recognized the potential of Discovery Agents at an early stage, was involved in the early testing of missions and provided invaluable feedback during the development of the game to ensure that it was efficient and user friendly.