WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 23, 2016 AT 2:30 PM EDT - The next U.S. Forest Service fee-free day is Sept. 24, 2016, in conjunction with the 23rd annual National Public Lands Day, the Nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands projects that ensure sustainable ecosystems and promote vibrant communities.
“National Public Lands Day connects thousands of volunteers, across the country, to improve the health and resiliency of our national forests,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.” Once again, I extend a special invitation to parents and teachers to bring their fourth graders to enjoy America’s natural wonders and historic sites in celebration of the Every Kid in a Park initiative.“
National Public Lands Day began in 1994 with three sites and 700 volunteers. It proved to be a huge success and became a yearly tradition, typically held on the last Saturday in September. Since the first NPLD, the event has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2015, 200,000 volunteers served at over 2,520 sites with land management agencies, including the Forest Service, in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
On national forests, grasslands and prairies, over 100,000 volunteers and service members contributed 4.4 million hours on critical projects last year. Their service was valued over $100 million.
Every Kid in a Park is an Obama Administration initiative to give fourth graders free passes so they and their families can visit all federal lands and waters. These public spaces serve as unparalleled outdoor classrooms showcasing the Nation’s cultural and natural resource history.
Nationwide, the Forest Service has registered more than 200 National Public Lands Day sites across the United States and Puerto Rico.
The following projects were selected as National Signature Events, based on demonstrated commitment to conservation stewardship and in support of the Every Kid in a Park program:
- Sept. 23-24: Every Kid in a Park Back-To-School Campout at the Old Soldier’s Home in Washington, D.C. A Partnership with National Parks Trust makes this event possible to teach local families camping skills and serves as a school year kick-off for local 4th graders.
- Sept. 23: Celebration of Public Lands, Gunnison National Forest in Paonia, CO. Several 4th graders will learn and play in the national forest and receive their Every Kid passes which allows them and their families to explore Public Lands for free.
- Sept. 23-25: Every Kid in a Park and College Students environmental explorations on the Mendocino National Forest in Red Bluff, CA. This partnership is between the Forest Service, California State University Chico (CSU-Chico), 5 Gyres Institute and CSU-Chico Latina’s In Action (Student Service Group).
- Sept 24: DiscoverMiTierra and LatinxNatureRx Youth Experience in Commerce City, Colorado. High school students and 4th graders will participate in a nature treasure hunt with volunteer scientists and naturalists and learn about the significance of items they collected.
To find an event near you, visit National Public Lands Day Find a Site.
The Forest Service also offers fee-free days in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, National Get Outdoors Day and Veterans Day. Fees are waived generally for day use areas, such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers. Fees are not waived for concessionaire-operated facilities or for overnight use such as camping or recreation rentals. Contact your local national forest to learn if your destination requires a fee and if that fee is waived.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 30 percent of the nation’s surface drinking water to cities and rural communities and approximately 66 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 900 million forested acres within the U.S., of which over 130 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.