News Release

US Forest Service awards nearly $800,000 to units working to connect youth to nature

The cost-share funds augment benefit children’s projects in 16 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands

May 9, 2013 -

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today 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.

Today’s 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.

kids with face paint

“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.”

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.

kid with crayfish

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.

The selected Forest Service units join a long line of successful children’s programs offered by the agency and its partners across the country. All selected programs have a natural resource focus.  Many of the programs also encourage family and community participation.

The selected projects, the amount of agency funds, the amount partners will contribute, and program highlights are:


  • Yakutat’s TERN of Events: Youth Activities During the Yakutat Tern Festival,Tongass National Forest; $9,000 agency; $12,000 partner; provide support to educational leaders to enhance festival offerings and expand instruction to young people about natural sources. 
  • Working from Urban Parks to the Chugach Woods: The Next Step is a New Experience, Chugach National Forest; $38,268 agency; $65,672 partner; engage underserved youth ages 16-19 from Anchorage in 10-week work experiences on municipal and federal lands.


  • River Pathways on the Tonto National Forest; $40,000 agency; $40,500 partner; engage inner-city teens in conservation activities to educate them about Arizona’s rivers, facilitate field trip experiences and habitat monitoring activities. 
  • Sky Islands Children’s Forest, Coronado National Forest; $49,628 agency; $87,392 partner; helps support place-based learning across five counties with educators and agency specialists using indoor and outdoor classrooms to reach students from kindergarten to college.


  • Richmond Edible Forest/Urban Tilth, Pacific Southwest Research Station; $30,000 agency; $93,000 partner; work with 700 young people through field trips, camping and shadow opportunities to install five edible forests or gardens in Richmond parks and school areas. 
  • Junior Watershed Science Training Program, Six Rivers National Forest; $49,990 agency; $57,309 partner; teach students about the scientific process of observation and analysis while conducting real-life studies on water quality and aquatic species as they design and implement a watershed study focused on the Van Dusen watershed.
  • Ayer Elementary Ranger Week Program, Sierra National Forest; $5,000 agency; $7,200 partner; enhance a current program in which rangers visit the school and take students to the forest for first-hand learning about plants, animals, habitat, forest health, Native American life and historical logging.
  • Redwood EdVenture’s Children’s Forest, Six Rivers National Forest; $36,000 agency; $53,650 partner; a virtual visitor’s center will create a Children’s Forest-Quest network to encompass public lands.


  • Winter is COOL, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; $27,050 agency; $31,360 partner; allow under-represented children ages 9-12 to explore the outdoors on cross-country skis in the winter and build upon science, survival, safety and natural resource career information through the Junior Snow Ranger program.


  • Connecting Kids to the Hogtown Creek Watershed: Engaging Middle School Students in Outdoor Learning, Southern Research Station; $13,742 agency; $15,442 partner; connect students to outdoor science learning activities and learning projects within the nearby Loblolly Woods watershed, which spans 20 square miles within urban and suburban Gainesville, Fla.


  • Noxious Weeds: Town to Forest Comparison, Payette National Forest; $16,000 agency; $16,400 partner; build on existing partnership and enhance local environmental literacy for children ages 9-10, including underserved students in Valley County by expanding the spotted knapweed study with student-led discoveries on school, forest and city lands. 


  • Louisville is Engaging Children Outdoors, Daniel Boone National Forest; $21,295 agency; $67,022 partner; continue a program that serves five schools through free after-school, nature-based recreational opportunities, including canoeing on the Ohio River and a day trip to the Red River Gorge.


  • Explorations in an Urban Wild, Eastern Region’s Urban Connections; $17,168 agency; $31,750 partner; bring urban youth from low-income and underserved communities in metro Boston to the Allendale Woods for a summer program to learn about the outdoors while participating in nature-based activities.


  • Elx2: SEAKing Middle Ground, Superior National Forest; $38,406 agency; $54,300 partner; address specific barriers to engaging under-represented, disadvantaged youth in science-based career paths through a pilot environmental science inquiry program. 


  • Growing a Network of Schoolyard Native Plant, Pollinator and Wildflower Gardens, Lolo National Forest, $19,850 agency; $53,050 partner; work with teachers and students to build and more effectively use schoolyard native plant, pollinator and wildlife gardens while learning respect for nature and outdoor stewardships skills.
  • Bitterroot Culture Camp, Bitterroot National Forest; $16,611 agency; $18,000 partner; increase the middle-school student understanding of and respect for each other and the land while camping on the forest. Youth from the Bitterroot Valley, the traditional home of the Salish American Indians, and tribal and non-tribal youth will participate.
  • Watershed Works, Helena National Forest; $10,500 agency; $55,000 partner; teach students in three communities critical information about the area’s various watersheds and the student’s  role in the future of water.

New Mexico:

  • Take It Outside, NM! Passport to Outdoor Fun, Lincoln National Forest; $15,000 agency; $33,000 partner; issue “passports” to young people, which can be stamped when they visit one of several outdoors venues.

New York:

  • The Bronx River Forest Youth Environmental Stewardship Program, Northern Research Station; $24,000 agency; $27,500 partner; builds on an existing partnership that combines training of school staff and volunteers in environmental protocols, stewardship opportunities, and educational and recreational activities to  provide more outdoor opportunities for urban youth and their families. 

South Carolina:

  • Whitmire’s Outdoor Observations and Demonstrations School, Sumter National Forest; $17,050 agency; $35,705 partner; supports Project Learning Tree activities, an amphitheater, nature trail, extensive water quality monitoring, phenology tracking and climate change studies all using the latest technology.


  • More Greenwood Students in the Woods, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; $14,400 agency; $36,810 partner; helps students participate in age-appropriate service projects and learn about a variety of natural resources topic on visits to the canyons of the forest, which is less than 10 miles from the school. 
  • Mapping Our Future, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; $47,500 grant; $60,500 partners; develop student knowledge about cartography, satellite imagery and the natural world through maps and artistic inspiration with assistance from Bad Dog Arts and from the agency’s Engineering, Geospatial Service and Technology Center and the Remote Sensing Application Center.
  • Logan Canyon Children’s Forest, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; $49,550 agency; $201,600 partner; connect and strengthen well-established programs for kindergarten through 12th grade students while pioneering new programs and professional development to educators.


  • Fairfax County Public School and Sustainable Operation Outdoor Education Expansion Project, George Washington-Jefferson National Forest; $26,712 agency; $101,703 partner; expand opportunities for student field trips, provides tools and materials for students to implement projects, and increases teacher expertise in hands-on, outdoor learning by offering a summer institute with Forest Service scientists.


  • 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree, Colville National Forest; $21,000 agency; $29,000 partner; rural children will be partners of the Upper Columbia Children’s Forest and be engaged to learn  about the trees and the U.S. Capitol in support of providing the holiday tree for the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. 
  • Puget Sound Youth and Community Engagement, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Olympic National Forests; $30,000 agency; $75,000 partner; replicates the Youth and Community Engagement program on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie to provide project-based learning opportunities and engage urban, under-served youth in the outdoors.
  • Mount St. Helen’s Children’s Forest, Mount St. Helen’s National Volcanic Monument; $69,600 agency; $108,660 partner; harness existing and new partnerships while adding programs that will reach more children in areas of field-based research, data analysis, field-based watershed restoration and research.

U.S. Virgin Islands:

  • Forest Field Days in the U.S. Virgin Islands, International Institute of Tropical Forestry; $19,500 agency; $19,500 partner; offer a series of six Forest Field Days for fourth through sixth graders and an Environmental Stewards Mentorship program for high school students who have little or no access to forested areas on St. Croix.


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 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.