WASHINGTON — Through a partnership with Discover Your Forest, the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grasslands have been able to amplify their community engagement efforts and impacts. The Discover Your Forest: Friends of the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and the Crooked River Grassland collaborative project provided learning and job opportunities to more than 25 interns, coordinated 3,000 volunteers in support of service projects, provided environmental education programs to more than 9,000 school-age children and involved more than 125,000 adults in stewardship efforts in 2017.
Discover Your Forests has built relationships with local Education Service Districts and developed programs to engage youth and create the next generation of conservation stewards and leaders. Ranging from indoor classroom instruction to hands-on teaching in the forest and other outdoor settings, the programs cover a variety of areas, including fire and restoration, watershed protection, native plants and wildlife, and invasive species.
Partnering with a local technology company and Deschutes National Forest, Discover Your Forest provided oversight for the development of a large-scale mobile kiosk application for the forest. Touch screen kiosks are now housed in several partner visitor centers, as well as Forest Service offices.
Discover Your Forest recently introduced the “Our River, Our Forest” program that provides an environment where children ages 3 to 5 can explore, imagine, learn and grow through hands-on activities and experiences in nature. As of July 2017, 245 children had participated in the program. In partnership with the Every Kid in a Park program, Discover Your Forest introduced fourth-grade students across Oregon to public lands right in their backyards, issuing 3,300 Every Kid in a Park passes and hosting 1,700 fourth-graders at their interpretive programs at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. In addition, seasonal staff, interns and dozens of volunteers greeted and offered programming to more than 250,000 visitors.
The Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Discover Your Forest have also worked together to develop natural resources career pathways programs for internship positions that target veterans,
students and diverse candidates. The addition of a community outreach and engagement coordinator to the Discover Your Forest team allowed the forests to recruit interns from the region’s most underserved communities. This has led to programs such as the Wilderness Interns. The interns have made more than 50,000 visitor contacts to date.
Finally, Discover Your Forest pursues creative fundraising to offset more than 60 percent of their operating costs. In addition to supporting their ongoing educational programming, they contribute to Forest Service projects. For example, Discover Your Forest manages the “$1 for Trails” campaign for the Deschutes Trails Collaborative. This campaign raised $116,000, which helped get the friends collaborative off the ground and will allow the program to continue into 2019.