Western Governors Tell Kids To Connect with Nature (and NWF Agrees)

Jenny Lake in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. The Western Governors' Association recently met and released a report featuring recommendations on connecting more kids with the outdoors. (flickr | Yellowstone Gate)
Earlier this week I attended the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) meeting, which focused on reconnecting youth and families with the outdoors.

“The Govs” (like “The Avengers”), led by chair Governor Chris Gregoire, were unanimous in their push to get kids outdoors.

As Colorado Governor  John Hickenlooper said: “[Y]ou can’t truly experience a state park or beautiful natural area until you actually go there and get dirty.”

We already know there are lots of good reasons to get kids off the couch It is better for their physical and mental health, and it makes them more likely to be conservationists when they grow up.

The Govs added another motivation: economics.  Tourism is a huge economic driver for the west.  If America raises a generation of kids who don’t care about the outdoors, our national and state parks, forests and recreational areas will get less use, and western communities will take a financial beating.

A Plan to Keep Outdoors Tourism Alive

The Govs aren’t just wagging fingers–they have a plan.  During the meeting, WGA released a report titled Connecting Kids and Families to the West’s Great Outdoors.  This report highlights the many ways that governors can reconnect people with nature.

Among other recommendations, the report encourages governors to create “Healthy Kids Outdoors Councils” to establish comprehensive statewide strategies for getting kids outdoors.  That strategy, which has already been implemented in Maryland and Kansas, will enable states to tap into resources from the federal Healthy Kids Outdoors Act once it passes in Congress.

The report also encourages Governors to create Children’s Outdoor Bills of Rights (the first such Bill was created in California), broker new partnerships, recognize youth leaders, promote the North American Conservation Education Strategy and promote fee-free days in parks.  At the meeting, several Western governors also agreed to participate in a pilot project that aims to increase park visits by creating a position of Youth Outdoor Recreation Outreach Coordinator in their offices.

NWF looks forward to working with WGA and our Western Governors to advance state policies that reconnect children with nature!  And we hope you will join us in supporting the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act in Congress, a bill that will support the “Healthy Kids Outdoors Councils” called for in the WGA report!

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Published: June 15, 2012