The U.S. Forest Service is awarding $772,820 to help national forests improve or implement conservation education programs for kids in 16 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This award is part of the more than $2.26 million dedicated to connecting American kids to Nature. It includes more than $1.49 million in partner contributions, according to a spokesperson for the Forest Service.
"Forest Service conservation education programs inspire young people to start exploring the natural world around them, which develops a life-long appreciation for the environment," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Our partnerships help ensure that we bring the great outdoors to children, whether in an urban or rural setting."
The Forest Service tells Tucson News Now that the Sky Islands Children's Forest (SICF) on the Coronado National Forest is the recipient of just under $50,000 in agency funding, which will also be matched by $87,392 in partner funding from participating organizations.
The goal is to connect children and families with the natural world. The Forest Service says Coronado has joined a network of outdoor educators working to address a need for local kids to learn more about the surrounding ecosystems, build stewardship ethics, and connect to healthy lifestyles. Sky Islands Children's Forest comes out of that collaboration. SICF's wants every child in southern Arizona to grow up with an appreciation of the region's natural environments and cultural heritage, so they're hoping this new money helps create a foundation for a lifetime of learning and ecological stewardship.
According to the Forest Service, these new investments fall in line with President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative designed to empower Americans to conserve, restore, and provide better access to our lands and waters. Programs like More Kids in the Woods and Children's Forests also support Let's Move Outside!, First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative to engage kids and families in outdoor recreation across public lands and waters.
More Kids in the Woods projects provided outdoor learning adventures for more than 55,000 children last year. The program features activities designed to spark curiosity about nature and promote learning, especially in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Forest Service says Children's Forests is a growing network that has reached an estimated 230,000 children. The activities in this program are centered around developed outdoor spaces on national or state forests, in urban parks, or at local schools. According to a spokesperson, the core mission of a Children's Forest is to get young people to take a leadership role in forest stewardship by giving them a voice in caring for the land.
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