Youths, DOI Secretary Talk Public Lands

Winners of sportsmen’s essay contest share with Secretary Jewell how their experiences on public lands have shaped their lives

02-27-2014 // Judith Kohler

A group of young outdoor enthusiasts met Wednesday with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to discuss the importance of public lands to America’s heritage and economy, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development said.

Sally Jewell with essay contest winners

The youths traveled to Washington, D.C., from across the country after winning an essay contest sponsored by the national sportsmen’s coalition. The contest’s theme was “The Importance of Public Lands to Me” and the essays highlight the forests, mountains, sagebrush steppe and backcountry waters overseen by Jewell and the Interior Department.

Hailing from both the East and West, the winners are Jarred Kay, 17, Flagstaff, Ariz.; Haley Powell, 17, Rock Springs, Wyo.; Matthew Reilly, 18, Palmyra, Va.; Rebecca Brown, 17, Conrad, Mont.; and Noah Davis, 18, Greensburg, Pa.

Jewell has said that engaging young people in conservation and nurturing their connection to the outdoors are critical to the health, economic and social benefits of conserving our public lands. SFRED representatives noted that fostering stewardship in younger generations is crucial as debates continue over federal funding of conservation programs, increased public lands energy development, and even the future ownership of these lands.

"America's public lands are one of our nation's greatest treasures. I've worried that the loss of connection with our outdoor heritage imperils these lands," said Brad Powell, senior policy director of the Sportsmen’s Conservation Project at Trout Unlimited. "Reading the essays of these young hunters and anglers gives me great hope that our public lands will be in good hands in the future." 

The SFRED coalition works to conserve the irreplaceable landscapes that sustain fish, wildlife, clean water and the hunting, fishing and recreation opportunities that members want to pass on to their children and grandchildren, members said.

"These young writers already understand the incredible worth of our public lands. Their outlooks and even future plans have been shaped by their experiences roaming the backcountry and hunting and fishing with their families,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director. "Their love for the outdoors gives me hope that our public-lands legacy will be secure for a long time to come."

"Theodore Roosevelt, a great president and conservationist, once said, ‘Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life,’” said Ed Arnett, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Responsible Energy Development. "Roosevelt would have been very proud of these fine young conservationists for engaging in and expressing their passion and love for the great outdoors in their essays. Hopefully this experience will convince these inspiring young writers and their peers that effort, pain and difficulty are critical if we are to responsibly manage our public lands and achieve their multiple uses."  

Learn more about the winners and read their essays at http://sfred.org/media-center/youth-essay-contest.

Follow the winners’ Washington, D.C., trip on Twitter: @JudithKohler, @ShaunaSherard, @kmckalip, @4huntersanglers.

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