Utah forests receive funding for kids' programs
SALT LAKE CITY - The U.S. Forest Service today awarded more than $24,000 to the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest for the Experience Your Abilities Program and $33,000 to the Dixie National Forest for the Color Country Outdoor Youth Initiative in support of conservation education programs
that will provide local community children more opportunities to experience the great outdoors, learn about nature, and build a lasting commitment to conservation and land stewardship.
"The value of expanding our programs for children must not be underestimated," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Young people are tomorrow's stewards of our public lands, and we have a duty to help them develop a lasting connection and passion for conservation of America's great outdoors."
Regional Forester Harv Forsgren stated, "We are excited the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Dixie National Forests and their wonderful partners were recognized with funding to help connect kids to the land that sustains and enhances the quality of their lives."
Experience Your Abilities Program is a unique program to provide an inclusive wilderness camp for children ages 6 to 15 with and without disabilities on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forests to help increase physical activity among children, especially those with disabilities and special health needs.
"In Utah there are more than 60,000 children with a disability," said Dr. John Librett, Executive Director of Splore. "We are thrilled to partner with the US Forest Service with the goal of significantly increasing access to outdoor recreation and education opportunities for children and families with disabilities."
Brian Ferebee, Forest Supervisor for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest stated, "With this funding the Forest and our partners will be able to provide an unforgettable opportunity for many children who otherwise would never have this opportunity to learn and experience the outdoors."
The Color Country Outdoor Youth Initiative on the Dixie National Forest is a nature-based outdoor education program in southwestern Utah that will be able to accept more students and increase opportunities for middle-school students.
Bridget Eastep, coordinator for outdoor recreation in parks and tourism at Southern Utah University said, "This will help to get youth involved through the outdoors early on and through their college years and this will help us to provide that opportunity."
"Providing outdoor experiences for youth is very important," said Dixie National Forest Supervisor, Rob MacWhorter. "This will give youth in Southern Utah opportunities to experience the outdoors and it will have a positive impact on their lives."
The Forest Service has been a leader in conservation education and recreation opportunities for more than a century. The agency's conservation education programs build on the principles of education, stewardship and skill development that result in career pathways for future stewardship leaders. These same principles support the goals identified in President Obama's America's Great Outdoors report and by First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Outside campaign and can also be a catalyst to help combat the rise in childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The funding, which was already in this year's agency's budget, leverage existing partnerships and will be distributed to "More Kids in the Woods" projects and "Children's Forest" programs. Nationally, the Forest Service has committed $1 million to these cost-share programs that build on long-term partnerships that will result in a roughly 2.5-to-1 return on the agency's investment.
The mission of the U.S. 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 public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.