WASHINGTON, APRIL 4, 2011 AT 3:15 PM EDT - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $1 million in cost-share funding for children's programs in 18 states and Puerto Rico, furthering USDA's commitment to connect young people around the country with America's great outdoors. The two programs receiving funding through this announcement will reach tens of thousands of young people this year, and support the goals of both President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative and First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative.
The funds will be divided between "Children's Forest" programs and "More Kids in the Woods" projects. Combined, they build on long-term partnerships and at least 25,000 more children will be able to participate in outdoor activities and expanded opportunities to make first-time and long-term connections between kids and the outdoors.
"America's children should have the opportunity to experience our great outdoors and gain first-hand knowledge about our magnificent natural resources, which are important to this country's wealth and health," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Now more than any other time in history, our children are losing their connection to nature and our hope is to reverse that trend while instilling a curiosity about nature and a life-long commitment to conservation and stewardship."
Each year, the Forest Service conducts thousands of programs that reconnect kids with nature – from nationwide, year-round programs that reach large numbers of children, to local events that are designed to address local needs. Collectively, conservation education, recreation and other programs reached more than 25 million children in 2010 and engaged thousands of partners across the country.
The More Kids in the Woods program, now in its fifth year, is a competitive funding program for partnership projects that get kids outside and engaged in active, meaningful learning experiences. Projects focus on serving diverse youth and reaching under-served populations, using outdoor activities and nature-based learning to establish meaningful and lasting connections to nature and to improve children's health. Projects funded in 2010 reached more than 15,000 youth. This year, selected projects range from a mentoring program, to outdoor camps, to science education and experiments, to discovery and stewardship adventures, to programs that reach at-risk youth.
Today's announcement expands a growing network of Children's Forests in every Forest Service region. Forests designated as Children's Forests will receive additional funds as they work with partners to connect kids and families with outdoor activities and the forest, support communities by creating new education and career opportunities, connect kids with education and mentorship programs, foster climate change understanding and solutions, and expand citizen stewardship of the nation's public lands.
"The value of these programs and partnerships for youth must not be underestimated," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Young people are tomorrow's stewards of our public lands, and we must invest in building lasting and meaningful connections between our youth and America's great outdoors."
The recipients of the cost-share funding, selected from 174 agency submissions, include 21 More Kids in the Woods projects and nine Children's Forests. Awards were made to projects in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Hawaii, Montana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
A full list of projects, descriptions, and funding is available at:http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2011/releases/04/mkiw-recipients.shtml.
Providing greater access to recreation in outdoor spaces is a priority of the Obama Administration. Let's Move!, a comprehensive initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, has set a goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles. This Obama administration priority is fundamentally changing the conversation about how we eat and stay active, helping to ensure future generations are ready to win the future.