U.S. Forest Service awards nearly $800,000 to youth and nature projects across the country | SummitDaily.com

U.S. Forest Service awards nearly $800,000 to youth and nature projects across the country

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced that the U.S. Forest Service is awarding $772,820 to help national forests enhance or establish More Kids in the Woods and Children’s Forests programs in 16 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With more than $1.49 million in partner contributions, the award is part of the more than $2.26 million dedicated toward connecting American children to the outdoors.

The announcement, made Tuesday, is one part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy, invest in youth and leverage resources through partnerships.

“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,” Tidwell said. “Our partnerships help ensure that we bring the great outdoors to children, whether in an urban or rural setting.”

These Forest Service investments align with President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative that encourages Americans to share in the responsibility to conserve, restore and provide better access to the country’s 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 children and families in active, outdoor recreation.

In 2012, more than 6.8 million people participated in Forest Service environmental literacy programs and activities, far beyond the 4.2 million agency target. Education programs are delivered by a network of land managers, scientists, educators and interpreters representing all branches of the agency.

The success of these programs is a result of leveraging resources as well as strong public and private partnerships. More than 2,500 individual organizations at the national, state, tribal and local levels help to ensure that conservation education efforts meet local needs and improve U.S. Forest Service outreach to diverse, underserved and urban populations.

More Kids in the Woods projects, which provided outdoor learning experiences for more than 55,000 children in 2012, include activities and programs designed to spark curiosity about nature and promote learning through applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) principles.

Children’s Forests, a growing network that reached an estimated 230,000 children last year, centers around developed outdoor spaces on national or state forests in urban parks or at schools. 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.

Among the selected projects throughout the nation to receive U.S. Forest Service funding, the “Winter is COOL” project in Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests was chosen in Colorado, with $27,050 going to agency and $31,360 to partner. The program allows under-represented children from ages 9 to 12 to explore the outdoors on cross-country skis in the winder and build upon science, survival, safety and natural resource career information through the Junior Snow Ranger program.

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