“This Isn’t a Partisan Issue”: Sen. Udall, Rep. Kind Make the Case for Healthy Kids Outdoors

At a congressional briefing today on the benefits of reconnecting Americans with the outdoors, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) announced their intention to introduce Senate and House versions of the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (HKOA) sometime in the near future.

The bill would support state, local and federal strategies to connect America’s youth with the outdoors through natural play; outdoor recreation like camping, hiking, hunting and fishing; public health plans; outdoor learning environments; service learning and other initiatives.

Pointing to a rise in childhood obesity rates and other health problems related to sedentary (and mostly indoor) lifestyles, Sen. Udall, chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on National Parks and co-chairman of the bipartisan Senate Outdoor Recreation Caucus, served notice that the work of getting kids out into nature need not be an occasion for factional squabbling.

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” Udall said.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) announces his partnership with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) on HKOA

Rep. Kind, a longtime advocate of reconnecting Americans with the outdoors who previously introduced the Moving Outdoors in Nature Act (MONA), noted that, beyond the physical health implications of America’s indoor epidemic, “it’s hard to develop a healthy mind without a healthy body.”

Both noted that outdoor recreation and tourism contribute billions of dollars  to the national economy each year and support tens of thousands of jobs in Colorado and Wisconsin alone.

The briefing was sponsored by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in expanding opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors. It came as part of Great Outdoors America Week, four days of celebration and conservation advocacy intended to remind leaders in Washington of our vital connection with America’s outdoor places.

OAK was launched by Sierra Club, YMCA of the USA, REI, National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, Outdoor Foundation, Children & Nature Network and the National Recreation and Park Association in June 2010. Since then, OAK’s steering committee has grown to include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity, the National Association of State Park Directors, The North Face and Active Network. OAK has over 30 member organizations representing more than 30 million individuals.