The Forest Service is giving out a half-million dollars in grants to 24 Forest Service applicants and their partners around the country.
Agency partners will provide matching funds for a combined $1.5 million dollars to go toward programs designed to improve children's health, combat obesity, and connect kids to nature.
The winning proposal was submitted by Timothy Fisher, director for the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, which is managed by the Ketchikan-Misty Fiords Ranger District.
It outlined plans for a week-long culture camp designed to connect Alaska Native youth ages 10-17 with their culture in a wilderness setting.
The program will receive $11,000 in grant funds, to be matched with $23,000 from the Tongass National Forest and the Ketchikan Indian Community.
Among the many other Alaska Region programs that connect kids with nature are the following:
Chugach National Forest working with:
Municipality of Anchorage - Youth Employment in Parks
Youth Restoration Corps - Connecting Urban Kids with Natural Resources in Alaska
Tongass National Forest working with:
Discovery Southeast - Alaska Bears in Communities
Various Alaska Native organizations - Finding Roots Growing Forest Caretakers
These programs rely extensively on partnerships with non-profit organizations.
For more information, contact Chugach National Forest Public Affairs at 743-9504, or Tongass National Forest Public Affairs at 228-6201.
The "More Kids in the Woods" program was developed in response to studies that show a widening gap between children and nature, highlighted in author Richard Louv's book, "Last Child in the Woods."
In his speech announcing the grant winners, Louv said, "This may be the most important initiative this department does in the next few years since you're giving kids so much more than information. You're giving them the experience of nature, the opportunity to feel the wonder and awe it brings. You're giving them a place to go in their hearts, to remember, to care about the public lands. People will only protect what they care about, and they only care about what they experience and know. You're also giving them a view of possible futures (careers in resource management, conservation, and environmental science) most didn't even know existed."