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May 22, 2007

Contact: Kevin Flynn  202-452-0363
Kristen Lenhardt  307-775-6103  

BLM Launches New Initiative to Connect Children and Families to Public Lands 

Acting Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Hughes has announced a new initiative to bring children and families closer to their public lands. The initiative, called "Take It Outside: Connect With Your Public Lands," is designed to bring together resources from throughout the agency to help connect children and families to public lands.

Recent studies have documented a trend in the U.S. toward less connection between people, especially children, and nature. The loss has been accompanied by an increase in both physical and mental health-related issues, in part caused by inactivity, and a disconnect with the natural environment.

"The BLM has a unique opportunity to reconnect children and families to the outdoors," according to Hughes. "The BLM manages lands located throughout the U.S. that are backyards to many rapidly growing, urbanizing communities. These lands provide great opportunities for outdoor recreation and education."

The "Take It Outside: Connect With Your Public Lands" program will bring together, and, in some cases, expand many of the BLM’s already-successful programs that engage children and families in the outdoors. The agency manages 258 million acres of public lands, and annually reaches over three million children through education and recreation programs and opportunities. The project will combine the best of these programs, focusing on three key areas to involve schools, youth organizations, and families.

For Schools: BLM offers outdoor education programs with school partners at a number of locations. The BLM is a strong supporter of "Hands on the Land," a network of field classrooms sponsored by six Federal agencies across the nation. Currently more than 20 BLM sites are members of this network, sharing information on student and teacher activities through the HandsOnTheLand.org website. Overall, the BLM has more than 200 environmental and heritage education programs at field locations reaching children.

For Youth Organizations: The BLM sponsors programs with the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boy Scouts of America, and other national youth organizations. The agency supports programs such as Kids Fishing Day and Wonderful Outdoor World (WOW), which introduce urban youth to fishing, camping, and other forms of outdoor recreation. The BLM is planning to strengthen partnerships with communities, partner groups and volunteers to offer expanded programs for youth.

For Families: The "Take it Outside: Connect With Your Public Lands" website includes information on nearly 200 sites where the BLM has identified family recreational activities such as hiking, paddling, historical and archaeological interpretive programs, adventure sports, as well as geologic sightseeing and wildlife watching. These sites are on BLM lands, mostly in the western U.S.

As part of the "Take It Outside: Connect With Your Public Lands" initiative, the BLM will be encouraging state and field offices to work closely with schools, youth groups, and parents to take advantage of outdoor opportunities in their communities. The BLM’s national website will include listings of opportunities and events and help promote local programs. And the BLM will be working in partnership with other federal and state agencies, tourism offices and nonprofit organizations to develop family-oriented materials for local schools and families.

One of the main goals of the initiative is to encourage stewardship of the public lands. "We need to create a sense of wonder about nature and the outdoors, and a sense of respect for cultural sites and the people who created them," Jim Hughes said. "The ‘Take It Outside: Connect With Your Public Lands’ program will give children a sense of ownership, respect, and stewardship that they will carry with them throughout their lives."

For more information on the "Take It Outside: Connect With Your Public Lands" initiative, visit the BLM website, www.blm.gov.

-BLM-