Texas receives grant to help establish kids’ natural resource programs

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - (News Release) - The U.S. Forest Service today awarded almost $71,000 to the Children's Forest Initiative of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas in support of conservation education programs that will provide local community children more opportunities to experience the great outdoors, learn about nature, and build a lasting commitment to conservation and land stewardship.

"The value of expanding our programs for children must not be underestimated," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Young people are tomorrow's stewards of our public lands, and we have a duty to help them develop a lasting connection and passion for conservation of America's great outdoors."

 "El Bosque de los Niños en Texas" will use existing partnerships to develop and enhance a network of locations and delivery methods in Texas. While anchored to specific locations, The Children's Forest in Texas (CFT) will also incorporate a mobile and virtual presence. Program development will be guided by current U.S. Forest Service and partner initiatives. Programs will incorporate science-based education, on-site service learning, health awareness, career and leadership development, mentor training and community conservation education. The CFT will be managed by the Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas (Friends of the NFGT) - Latino Legacy-Amigos del Bosque program, a non-profit conservation education and forest restoration program. Friends of the NFGT have proven successes in utilizing both multicultural and multigenerational approaches to reach broad and diverse communities. The CFT will have the support of many partnering organizations, such as the NFGT Multicultural Advisory Committee, the Texas Forest Service and Treetops in the Forest.

"We are truly thankful for our partners who are receiving funding today," said Linda Brett, forest supervisor for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. "These projects that get our nation's kids outdoors are aimed at increasing access and inclusion so that urban and rural kids alike have opportunities to be active and learn about our great outdoors."

 "We're a fairly new organization (FOFGT) that has worked for three years with public land servants (Forest Service) and this grant will enable us to be sustainable in working with other communities and to reach out to more people and a diverse audience," said David Clipson, director of the Friends of the NFGT. "The 'Children in the Forest' grant focuses on youth, but that message (eventually) translates over to the adults."

The Forest Service has been a leader in conservation education and recreation opportunities for more than a century. The agency's conservation education programs build on the principles of education, stewardship and skill development that result in career pathways for future stewardship leaders.

These same principles support the goals identified in President Obama's America's Great Outdoors report and by First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Outside campaign and can also be a catalyst to help combat the rise in childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The funding, which was already in this year's agency's budget, leverage existing partnerships and will be distributed to "More Kids in the Woods" projects and "Children's Forest" programs.

Nationally, the Forest Service has committed $1 million to these cost-share programs that build on long-term partnerships that will result in a roughly 2.5-to-1 return on the agency's investment.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.