WASHINGTON, APRIL 27, 2010 AT 9:45 AM EDT - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA's Forest Service will contribute $500,000 in 2010 to the "More Kids in the Woods" program for projects that promote active lifestyles and connect kids to nature.
"If we are going to put an end to childhood obesity, we must promote healthy, active lifestyles and encourage our kids to get off the couch and go outside," said Vilsack. "Our "More Kids in the Woods" challenge not only promotes physical activity, it fosters environmental awareness and stewardship among young people as we face critical environmental challenges, such as the effects of climate change. "More Kids in the Woods" helps kids make the connection between healthy forests, healthy communities and their own healthy lifestyles."
The contribution will be leveraged with $1.5 million in donations and in-kind services from partners. The "More Kids in the Woods" challenge is a cost-share program in the Forest Service's long-standing Kids in the Woods program that involves thousands of partners who contribute their time, energy and resources to help us connect kids and families with our natural world.
The Forest Service selected 21 projects for funding from more than 130 high-quality agency proposals created to promote environmental stewardship through innovative, hands-on activities. All "More Kids in the Woods" projects are designed to spark curiosity about nature and promote understanding of the role of the nation's forests and grasslands in providing clean, abundant water, clean air, wildlife habitat, and recreation. Project partners are committed to helping children develop a love for the land that will enable them to meet the conservation challenges of the 21st century through healthy lifestyles choices and natural resource careers.
Below is a list of the 21 projects:
- Earth Stewardship Program - Bitterroot National Forest , Hamilton, Mont., $121,855; This project will reach more than 400 seventh graders in the Bitterroot Valley with authentic stewardship and cultural experiences on public lands to help connect youth with nature and their cultural community.
- Forest Fun and Native Arts Camp - Clearwater National Forest & Nez Perce Tribe, Grangeville, Idaho; $39,300; This project will expand a successful summer camp to three new locations across the Nez Perce Indian Reservation and will integrate nature resource education with Nez Perce cultural arts.
- Kids Take Flight Educational Program - White River National Forest & Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Glenwood Springs, Colo., $38,000; This program will reach 500 kids, age 6-12, with unique hands-on wildlife experiences such as releasing rosy-finches, experiencing dragonfly metamorphosis and investigating owls.
- Four Mile Ranch Environmental Education - San Juan National Forest & Audubon, Colorado Pagosa Springs, Colo. , $65,353; The Four Mile Ranch Environmental Education program provides local elementary school students with hands-on, experiential science education and outdoor learning opportunities.
- Aldo Adventures on the Gila - Gila National Forest & Various Partners, Silver City, N.M., $62,100;Named after famed conservationist, Aldo Leopold, this program expands a successful program and supports fishing days, wilderness camping expeditions, outdoor labs and field days.
- Science at the Station: Bringing Nature to Life in the Woods and on the Range - Coronado National Forest & University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz., $154,360; This project will help rejuvenate and reinvent the historic Florida Station as an outdoor learning center, building strong partnerships between federal, state, county and private partners to bring diverse outdoor experiences to local children.
- Forest Service Alliance with Environmental Educators to get More Kids into the Woods - Caribou-Targhee National Forest & Various Partners, Idaho Falls, Idaho, $130,085; This comprehensive project builds an alliance of multi-sector partners to increase the opportunities, across all lands, that local children have to learn outdoors and develop outdoor recreation skills.
- Nature Caching Camp - Manti-LaSal National Forest & Snow College, Price, Utah, $47,704; This innovative project aims to get kids outside and physically active, by using the high-tech gadgets kids love with the wonder of nature, through nature caching and overnight campouts.
- Natural Resources Science Camp - Pacific Southwest-Redwood Sciences Lab, Six Rivers National Forest & Cities of Eureka and Arcata Recreation Divisions, Arcata, Calif., $82,700; Fourteen, week-long summer day camps will reach kids, 6-14, and focus on exploring local environments, and learning about research and careers in natural resources.
- Outdoor Experiences Program: "The mountains are calling and I must go." - Inyo National Forest & Mono Lake Committee, Bishop, Calif., $111,600; During five-day-long trips, this partnership-based program connects youth from Los Angeles and the Eastern Sierra region to their watershed through outdoor recreation, education and stewardship activities.
- The Richmond Edible Forest Project - Pacific Southwest Research Station & Urban Tilth, Albany, Calif., $136,200; This innovative project will build a team of inner-city youth to design and install a pilot "edible forest" in a city park, engage more than 700 youth in education, and share best practices so the project can be replicated broadly.
- Ryan Meadow Wetland Restoration and Conservation Education Project, Phase 1 - Deschutes National Forest & Discover Your Northwest, Bend, Ore., $214,400; Focused on a restored 60-acre wetland along the Deschutes River, this project will develop a comprehensive ecosystem monitoring program with standards-correlated curriculum, hands-on filled trips and community outreach.
- Canopy Connections - Pacific Northwest Research Station & HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, Portland, Ore., $47,514; Quiet observation time, creative writing, art and science inquiry projects are wrapped around each participant's personal guided ascent seventy feet above the forest floor into the canopy of an old-growth Douglas-fir tree.
- Greenway Trust - Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest & The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Everett, Wash., $93,450; Partners will engage and energize more than 2,500 youth through a year-round series of scaffolded land stewardship and education projects in and adjacent to the Snoqualmie Watershed.
- 24/7 Forest Stewardship Challenge - Ouachita National Forest & Audubon Arkansas, Hot Springs, Ark., $57,200; This project will reach more than 250 youth through a variety of active, outdoor experiences to help them learn 24 native plants and animals, and seven steps they can take to protect natural resources.
- Youth Taking Action Statewide Environmental Challenge - National Forests in Alabama & Alabama Department of Public Health, Montgomery, Ala., $41,800; Partnering with the Alabama Department of Public Health, and working through a series of 'youth challenges' this project encourages youth to become active in the outdoors and care for the environment.
- "Project Wild" for Florida Youth - National Forests in Florida & National Wild Turkey Federation Tallahassee, Fla., $140,000; This project builds a coalition of partners to coordinate and integrate outdoor learning experiences within Florida school systems.
- Project Venture North - Superior National Forest & Project Venture, Duluth, Minn., $118,900;Working with local partners, this program will enhance efforts to get Native American youth outside, working and learning experientially, bridging gaps between schools and communities, and building youth leadership skills.
- Bronx River On-Water Education Program - Northern Research Station & Rocking the Boat, New York City, N.Y., $492,278; Using boats built by their peers, students explore and restore the Bronx River, implementing eight environmental projects designed in collaboration with scientists.
- * Studying Climate Change in the Chugach Children's Forest - Chugach National Forest & Anchorage School District and Alaska Geographic Society, Anchorage, Alaska $28,802; Six hundred underserved 5th Grade students from Anchorage, Alaska will travel to Portage Glacier to learn about climate change by investigating glaciers and studying climate and weather data.
- Bear Smart - Chugach National Forest & Alaska Department of Fish & Game & Cordova School District, Anchorage, Alaska $12,000; This uniquely Alaskan project will help the community's 'walk or bike to school' initiative by educating youth and their families about avoiding bear encounters
This is the fourth year the Forest Service has matched funds and in-kind contributions from partners for "More Kids in the Woods." Partners include local, state, and federal agencies and American Indian tribes. Project activities include summer camps, after-school programs, and wilderness expeditions. The challenge-cost share will serve more than 15,000 children throughout the nation, including under-served and urban youth.
Promoting active and healthy lifestyles is a priority of the Obama Administration. First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. The campaign has four primary tenets: helping parents make healthy food choices, serving healthier food in schools; improving access to healthy, affordable food; and increasing physical activity. The Administration has introduced its plans to improve school meals, introduced a financing initiative to reduce food deserts, implemented new research tools that detail local food environments and health outcomes, including grocery store access and disease and obesity prevalence, and announced a broad range of public/private commitments to solve America's childhood obesity epidemic.
In order to combat the childhood obesity epidemic, the Obama Administration is working to increase the opportunities for exercise and physical activities through partnerships like "Fuel Up to Play 60" which brings together the NFL, National Dairy Council and other partners to encourage physical activity and eating nutritious food through sports clinics, appearances, and public service announcements.
The mission of the USDA Forest Service 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 National Forest System land, provides stewardship assistance to non-federal forest landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. For more information, visit: www.fs.fed.us