New Legislation Aims To Connect Youth with the Outdoors
Today, Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) and Congressman Ron Kind (WI) introduced legislation aimed at connecting youth and families with the outdoors. Supported by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would support state, local and federal strategies to reconnect Americans with nature, keep wildlife wild, and support future economic growth and conservation efforts.
Those who do not spend time in nature are less likely to protect it – leaving our nation’s vast national resources at risk. This legislation will give more visibility to the value of alternative and expanding learning environments can have in significantly improving academic achievement in reading, math and science and will encourage kids and families to be active outdoors through unstructured play; outdoor recreation such as camping, hiking, hunting and fishing; public health initiatives; outdoor learning centers; service learning and other programs.
"The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would enrich the lives of our children, improve public health, and benefit our outdoor recreation economy," Senator Heinrich said. "By taking a holistic approach to improving child well-being, this bill would provide our kids the opportunity to gain hands-on outdoor education, while giving them an introduction and lifelong connection to conservation and all that the natural world has to offer," he added.
"Young people today spend less time participating in outdoor activities than ever before," Congressman Kind said. "This bill gives our state and local leaders the tools they need to find new ways to promote active, healthy outdoor lifestyles for kids in Wisconsin and across the nation. If they start early in life, young people will be more likely to care for their health and natural surroundings as adults and then pass those values on to future generations."
The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would provide incentives for states to develop dynamic five-year strategies to reconnect children and families to the great outdoors. The act would also compel the President to involve federal agencies and national partners to create a similar plan at the national level and support further research documenting the health, conservation and other benefits of active time spent outdoors in the natural world.
"NWF has worked to connect people with nature for decades so that they will form a deeper desire to protect wildlife and wild places," said Kevin Coyle, vice president for education and training for National Wildlife Federation. "We applaud Congressman Kind and Senator Heinrich for introducing legislation to bring families outside seeing wild places on a regular basis."
"A life-long passion for conservation, hunting and fishing, and active outdoor recreation begins at a young age," said Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America. "The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will help children and families to get outside and experience the natural world around them."
"Many local and state park agencies currently partner with schools to provide environmental education programs, where trained and knowledgeable staff provide benefits to students and teachers through "hands-on" learning," said Kevin O’Hara, vice president of government affairs for the National Recreation and Park Association. "These experiences stimulate the student’s learning process and curiosity in a manner that cannot be achieved simply through the classroom. By educating our children on the importance of the environment and world around them through "field" experience, we promote the future of conservation, stewardship, as well as advances in environmental science. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act provides important incentives aimed at reconnecting youth and families with nature and fostering education and stewardship."
"Childhood is the best time for instilling a love for the outdoors," says Jackie Ostfeld, nearby nature director at the Sierra Club and co-founding chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. "Whether it’s a lack of access to nearby parks and green spaces, safety, school budget cuts or overscheduled families, today’s kids face many challenges to spending time in nature with repercussions for their health and wellness. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will help tear down barriers and encourage greater participation in the natural world. Sierra Club and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids applaud Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind for their leadership to improve the health and wellness of kids across this nation by getting them active and outdoors."
"Now, more than ever, it is important to develop new strategies for getting children outdoors reconnecting to nature," said Paul Sanford, national director of recreation policy for The Wilderness Society. "Kids need stimulating alternatives to smart phones and computers, alternatives that are educational and promote physical activity. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will encourage states to provide opportunities for recreation and education in the great outdoors. We thank Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind for championing this important legislation."
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