Text by Tetsuhiko Endo
President Barak Obama and the Department of the Interior have proposed $50 million in new investments that would help children and families become more connected with outdoor activities. The initiative, dubbed the 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps, is included in the DOI’s 2010 budget proposal, with $30 million going to educating young hunters and anglers and $20 million destined to fund Youth Careers in Nature.
“This kind of interest in youth and the outdoors is fairly unprecedented,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, Senior Legislative Representative of the National Wildlife Federation. Fitzgerald also credits Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s upbringing in Colorado and his special interest in conservation as part of the impetus for the initiative.
The main goal of the monetary infusion is to get a generation who spends half as much time outdoors as their parents interested in nature. According to information released by the DOI, they will do this by building on existing youth programs in the BLM, USGS, FWS, and NPS.
Money for the hunting and angling programs will be specifically targeted at rapidly growing, under-represented groups like Native American Tribes, who could receive $2.8 million. On the educational end of things, the initiative hopes to renew interest in outdoor service careers with a three pronged approach that includes engaging youth in public service, enhancing school science programs, and improving the curricula of national environmental education programs.
The program is ambitious and one hopes that it will survive the appropriations process in Congress without losing too much of its punch. After all, the stakes couldn’t be higher. As the report says: “the future success of resource conservation efforts and effective stewardship of public lands and resources is reliant on an engaged public that values nature.”