Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced that all recreation fees on national forests and grasslands would be waived in conjunction with the annual celebration of National Public Lands Day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture joins other federal agencies to waive day-use fees at its recreation sites nationwide on Sept. 18, 2004.
"National forests provide a healthful, outdoor recreation experience for millions of Americans. The President's HealthierUS Initiative encourages physical activity to promote health, and increased outdoor recreation will help meet that goal," Veneman said. "I encourage all Americans to get out and enjoy their national forests and grasslands."
The USDA's Forest Service this weekend also will host more than 50 events on national forest system lands to help celebrate National Public Lands Day. From the Talladega National Forest in Alabama, to the Midewin Tallgrass Prairie near Chicago, to the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, volunteers will plant trees, clean up streams and waterways, clear away brush, debris and invasive species, perform trail maintenance work, enhance visitor campground areas, and sow seeds on national forests and grasslands. Volunteers pitching in on National Public Lands Day will be rewarded with a free entry day during the next year at any public land site.
Taking part in National Public Lands Day volunteer activities also supports Take Pride in America, part of the President's USA Freedom Corps volunteer service initiative. Take Pride in America is a national partnership established by the U.S. Department of the Interior to empower volunteers from every corner of America to improve our parks, refuges, recreation areas and cultural and historical sites. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Jack Blackwell was recently named one of five recipients of the 2004 National Take Pride in America Federal Land Manager Award for his innovative and creative approach to using volunteers.
The Forest Service manages 155 national forests and 20 grasslands, forestry research, and cooperates with managers of state and private forestlands. It also offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities and special areas on 191 million acres of national forests and grasslands. Approximately 18 percent of national forestland is wilderness, providing opportunities for primitive recreation experiences.
Now in its 11th year, National Public Lands Day is the largest annual volunteer hands-on restoration activity of its kind, providing more than $8 million in time, labor, materials and services. Nationally, more than 80,000 volunteers get together each year to refurbish and restore federal public lands.
For more information on events in your area, visit http://www.npld.com/ or contact your local Forest Service office.