Kids OutsideWhether it was picking daisies, camping with my scout troop or sledding down snowy hills with my family, I know that many of my childhood outdoor experiences were critical in developing the enthusiasm and respect I still have for the natural world.

That’s why I’ve become deeply concerned about seeing the first generation of American children growing up effectively isolated from nature. In fact, over the past 20 years, the time children spend playing outdoors has been cut in half.

This increasing “nature deficit” is not only threatening America’s long-standing conservation ethic, but has resulted in alarming child health issues.

Studies demonstrate that unstructured play in natural settings is essential to all aspects of children’s health. It leads to more physical activity, increased activity and more positive social interactions with friends and family members.

From the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream water, exploring the diverse landscapes of America has shaped who we are as Americans.

Let’s ensure that future generations can reap the benefits of daily contact with nature to preserve this special part of our national and cultural identity.

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Published: August 27, 2008