President’s View: Ranger Rick's Living Legacy

For 50 years, NWF's treasured magazine has taught kids a love of nature

  • Collin O’Mara, NWF President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Conservation
  • Jan 30, 2017

NWF President Collin O’Mara and his 4-year-old daughter, Riley, enjoy sharing Ranger Rick Jr.™, one of three children’s magazines the Federation publishes to help kids learn about and love wildlife.

WHEN I SPEAK AT SCHOOLS, one of the first questions I get from students is, “How did you become a conservationist?” And I proudly reply, “I was a Ranger Rick® kid growing up.” It’s heartening that in every corner of the country, students usually clap—a sure sign that many of them also grew up reading Ranger Rick, the National Wildlife Federation’s flagship magazine for kids.

For me, sharing Ranger Rick with my mom and dad was a truly formative experience. Beyond learning from the articles and world-class pictures, we completed the activities together outdoors. We built backyard habitat, helped pollinators and learned about the wildlife all around us. Exploring the wonders of nature at a young age instilled a conservation ethic that still defines me today.

The Power of Inspiring Children

At NWF, we’ve always known that when we share our love of wildlife with kids, we can spark a lifelong passion to learn about, explore and protect the natural world. And today—when about a third of America’s species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades (See the National Wildlife article The U.S. Biodiversity Crisis)—inspiring children to care about wildlife has never been more important. 

There’s a lot that we can do right now to save species. All of us can urge the U.S. Congress to pass the recently introduced “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act,” which will provide necessary funding for state wildlife conservation. But much of that work will span decades, so we need to inspire and empower the next generation of wildlife conservationists now by introducing tens of millions more kids to nature and expanding environmental education programs such as those that NWF and its state and territorial affiliates already have in more than 11,000 schools across the nation. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forest engineer, who famously said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” Clearly, children need mentors to help them discover the great outdoors and connect with wildlife so they develop a lifelong love of nature. My wife, Krishanti, and I are introducing my daughter, Riley, to nature through birding, hiking, camping and fishing—with Ranger Rick as our trusted guide.

In this new year, as Ranger Rick magazine turns 50, I hope that you’ll help us reach millions of young Americans by introducing them to nature through this beloved guardian of the wild. The more Ranger Rick kids there are, the better it will be for the future of conservation.

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More from National Wildlife magazine and NWF:

Educating Tomorrow's Naturalists
Eco-Schools Teach Eco-Living
Presidents View: Greening Our School's Curricula

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