U.S. Forest Service Announces $1 Million in Kids and Nature Grants

Reflecting on the most awe-inspiring moments of my life, I realize that virtually all of them took place in the great outdoors with family members by my side. What I was lucky enough to see and do in nature as a child was essential in making me the person I am today. I am not alone in this opinion. Earlier this month, Whitney Hopler of the Washington Post published an article that describes the struggles and payoffs of tearing her kids off their electronic devices while visiting California’s Redwood and Giant Sequoia trees. Likewise, my colleague Danielle Moodie-Mills recently blogged about her grandfather’s fishing trips and their role in sparking her passion for getting kids outdoors.

So it makes sense that efforts to connect kids and their families with nature would be key to improving our overall health and well-being at a time when childhood obesity and nature-deficit disorder are very real and detrimental problems. Perhaps even more significant is the nature disconnect of kids from underserved and minority communities.

Photo by Jack Dykinga, USDA.gov
Fortunately, efforts to address these problems recently got a leg up thanks to $1 million in cost-share funding from the US Forest Service that will benefit the USDA’s More Kids in the Woods and Children’s Forest programs. These grants, which will go into effect in 18 states, will augment existing programs or act as seed money for new ones that engage children and their families in outdoor learning. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement on March 2, and explained that grants will benefit eight Children’s Forests and twenty-three More Kids in the Woods projects, and that all nine USDA regions of the U.S. are included.

More Kids in the Woods projects engage kids in activities and educational programs to “spark curiosity about nature and promote learning,” and is a cost-share program dependent upon the time, energy and resources contributed by thousands of partners. Children’s Forests, on the other hand, are focused on developed outdoor spaces within national or state forests, in urban parks or at schools, and are used to teach kids to care about the land while allowing them participation and leadership in forest management. NWF is excited to be partnering with USFS on a number of these projects.

The Forest Service grants align with President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Outside! initiatives. Launched in 2010, America’s Great Outdoors seeks to engage the public to work together to conserve and restore our lands and to connect to the outdoors. Let’s Move! focuses on solving the problem of childhood obesity, and includes a segment that aims to improve physical and mental health through outdoor activities.

Inspired? You can help get more kids outdoors by planning a local event to plant trees! You can also learn more about NWF’s efforts to connect kids and families to nature from our Be Out There campaign.