WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 AT 11:45 AM EDT - The next U.S. Forest Service fee-free day is Sept. 26, 2015, in conjunction with the 22nd 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 volunteers will join thousands of others who take great pride in assisting land managers by cleaning and restoring trails, campgrounds and shorelines across the country,” said U.S. Forest Chief Tom Tidwell. “This year, I extend a special invitation to parents to bring their fourth graders to enjoy America’s natural wonders and historic sites in celebration of the new 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 2014, 175,000 volunteers served at over 2,000 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
On national forests, grasslands and prairies, nearly 110,000 volunteers and service members contributed 4.6 million hours on critical projects last year. Their service was valued at close to $105 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 174 National Public Lands Day sites across the United States and Puerto Rico. Some of the projects the Forest Service highlights this year include 21st Century Conservation Service Corps member organizations and the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. There also is an emphasis on projects aimed at connecting with urban and underrepresented communities, fourth graders and age-equivalent homeschoolers.
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:
- Anacostia River, World Water Monitoring Day in Washington, DC
- Clinton Park - Houston Parks and Recreation Department in Houston, Texas
- Daniel Boone National Forest in Stanton, Kentucky
- Great Lakes Bat Festival in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
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 Forest Service, part 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 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.