Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service will contribute $500,000 this year to the "More Kids in the Woods" program for projects that promote active lifestyles and connect kids to nature.
One of the funded projects will be in the White River National Forest.
"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," Vilsack said. "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."
Vilsack said the initiatives supported by the program will help children make a connection among "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 connect kids and families with the 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.
The 21 projects include the Kids Take Flight Educational Program - a partnership between the White River National Forest and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Glenwood Springs. 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.
The Four Mile Ranch Environmental Education, a partnership between the San Juan National Forest and Audubon Colorado provides local elementary school students with hands-on, experiential science education and outdoor learning opportunities.
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.