Release Date: May 14, 2013  

TUCSON, AZ (May 13, 2013)- U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week announced awarding $772,820 to help national forests enhance or establish More Kids in the Woods and Children’s Forests programs in 16 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Including more than $1.49 million in partner contributions, this award is part of the more than $2.26 million dedicated toward connecting American children to the great outdoors.


The announcement is one part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy, invest in youth and leverage resources through partnerships.


“Forest Service conservation education programs inspire young people to start exploring the natural world around them, which develops a life-long appreciation for the environment,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.  “Our partnerships help ensure that we bring the great outdoors to children, whether in an urban or rural setting.”

The Sky Islands Children’s Forest (SICF) on the Coronado National Forest is the recipient of $49,628 in agency funding, to be matched by $87,392 in partner funding.


As is the case with Children’s Forests nationwide, SICF will provide opportunities to connect children and families with the natural world.  In recent years the Coronado has joined a network of outdoor educators which identified a need for local youth to learn more about the surrounding ecosystems, build stewardship ethics, and connect to healthy lifestyles.  SICF is a result of that collaboration.  Current partners include the Coronado National Forest, Ironwood Tree Experience, National Environmental Education Foundation, Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists, and Tucson Unified School District.  


The vision of SICF is that every child in southeastern Arizona will grow up walking hand in hand with the region’s natural environments and cultural heritage; and create a foundation for a lifetime of learning, stewardship and advocacy for their communities and the environment.


Goals of SICF include involving youth in program development; incorporation of place-based projects, measured learning and systems thinking; connecting Sky Islands ecosystems through SICF participation; and empowerment of educators to utilize SICF programs independently.


These Forest Service investments align with President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative that seeks to empower Americans to share in the responsibility to conserve, restore and provide better access to our lands and waters, and leave a healthy and vibrant outdoor legacy for generations to come. Programs like More Kids in the Woods and Children's Forests also support Let's Move Outside!, First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative to raise a healthier generation by engaging kids and families in active, outdoor recreation across public lands and waters. 

Conservation education helps people of all ages understand and appreciate this country’s natural resources and how to conserve those resources for future generations. In Fiscal Year 2012, more than 6.8 million people participated in Forest Service environmental literacy programs and activities, far beyond the 4.2 million agency target. Education programs are delivered by a network of land managers, scientists, educators and interpreters representing all branches of the agency.


The success of these programs is a result of leveraging resources as well as strong public/private partnerships. More than 2,500 individual organizations at the national, state, Tribal and local levels help to ensure that our conservation education efforts meet local needs and improve our outreach to diverse, underserved and urban populations. For example, our partnership with the Ad Council includes the highly successful online Discover the Forest, offered in English and Spanish, to help inspire children ages 8-12 and their parents to reconnect with nature, experiencing the great outdoors first-hand.


More Kids in the Woods projects, which provided outdoor learning experiences for more than 55,000 children in Fiscal Year 2012, include activities and programs designed to spark curiosity about nature and promote learning through applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles. Hundreds of partners contribute their time, energy and resources within these projects to help connect kids and families with the natural world.


Children’s Forests, a growing network that has reached an estimated 230,000 children in Fiscal Year 2012, differ in that they are centered around developed outdoor spaces on national or state forests, in urban parks or at schools. The core mission of a Children’s Forest is to get young people to take a leadership role in forest stewardship by giving them a voice in caring for the land.


USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $700 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.


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. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).