News Release

USDA Forest Service Launches National Effort to Develop Conservation Leaders of Tomorrow

Agency Reinvigorates Popular 1950s-Era Conservation Ed Program

DENVER , Colo.
May 16, 2006 -

U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service today launched its new and improved Junior Forest Ranger (JFR) program by enrolling nearly 100 fifth-grade students from Denver’s Ellis Elementary School into the conservation education program.

"The future of our natural resources and their management will one day be in the hands of today’s youth," said Kent Connaughton, Forest Service associate deputy chief for state and private forestry, at an event here at Recreation Equipment Inc.'s flagship store. "The new JFR program can help prepare our young people for this important responsibility by connecting them to the land and fostering their interest in effective land stewardship."

First introduced in 1954 as part of a public service campaign for the Smokey Bear fire prevention program, the JFR program was designed to encourage a fire prevention ethic in children. Within three years, one million children were recruited, which led to Smokey being assigned his own zip code.

The updated program includes more components to enrich children’s (ages 7 to 13) understanding of the spectrum of land management activities, covering topics such as fire ecology and ecosystem management. Upon enrolling in the program, children will receive an Adventure Guide designed to stimulate their enthusiasm for outdoor activities and their understanding of the environment. The guide will also provide kids with information on Forest Service programs and volunteer opportunities and youth programs in their area. Participants will also receive an embroidered badge, an agency pin, an individual oath pledge card and a program card to permit access to the web-based JFR Clubhouse.

Two non-profit interpretive associations—the Cradle of Forestry ( Asheville, N.C.) and the San Juan Mountains ( Durango, Colo.)—also joined in the effort today by partnering with the Forest Service to help build the program. The Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association will pilot a JFR camp program and develop curricula for use in its educational program activities to help kids become familiar with the principles of fire prevention and the conservation of natural resources. The San Juan Mountain Interpretive Association will distribute the adventure guide at community events and school activities. With help from its partners, the agency intends to induct 25,000 children into the program over the next year.

For more information on the JFR program, visit http://www.symbols.gov/. Copies of the Adventure Guide can also be found at national forests and grasslands offices.