Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to announce Los Angeles has been selected as one of eight pilot cities under the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative to connect urban youth with the great outdoors. The announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request last week, which supports the Department's youth initiative to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors through increased investments in the Department’s youth programs.
“As children become increasingly disconnected with nature, it is critical for the health of our economy and our public lands that we work to establish meaningful and deep connections between young people from every background and every community to the great outdoors,” said Secretary Jewell. “Creating opportunities for urban young people to get outdoors not only supports healthy lifestyles but it also helps spark a passion to be good stewards of nature that will last a lifetime.”
“Giving city kids access to outdoor experiences and exercise will undoubtedly make a lasting impact, and so I am excited that L.A. is partnering with the Department of the Interior through the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Connecting L.A.'s youth with nature will enrich their lives, strengthen our communities, and increase our city's health.”
President Obama’s budget released last week proposes $50.6 million for Interior youth programs, which represents a $13.6 million (or 37 percent) increase from 2014. Included in the budget is an increase of $2.5 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative, $8 million to expand opportunities for youth education and employment across the National Park Service and an additional $1 million in the Bureau of Indian Affairs for youth programs.
Prior to the announcement, students from Franklin High School led Jewell and Garcetti on a hike of the LA River and through Los Angeles State Historic Park where they discussed how the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are partnering with local organizations to create opportunities to help urban students and families make connections with America’s federal, state and local public lands.
Thanks to a partnership with the Friends of the LA River, a mobile visitor and education center will soon bring the Los Angeles River to life for young people who might otherwise not establish a connection with nature. A modified RV, the River Rover, will provide educational opportunities for families and children in one of the most diverse and densely populated regions of the country.
“Los Angeles is a national leader at engaging urban youth in nature and we hope what is happening here can serve as a model for other cities across the country,” said Jewell. “The partnership we have formed will allow us to bring young people to the river and the river to young people.”
The River Rover, to be completed in April, will house interactive exhibits, including an interactive model of the LA River watershed. It is one of eight pilot projects sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service across the country. Examples of other projects include working with schools in New Haven, CT, to create a network of wildlife-friendly habitat oases and habitat improvements in municipal parks, schoolyards, and vacant lots to establishing nature-learning and engagement opportunities in urban neighborhoods in Chicago.
In an attempt to help bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors, Secretary Jewell last October launched an ambitious youth initiative to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. The goals of the youth initiative include:
Play: Interior will develop or enhance outdoor recreation partnerships in a total of 50 cities over four years to create new, systemic opportunities for outdoor play for more than 10 million young people.
Learn: Provide educational opportunities to at least 10 million of the nation’s K-12 student population annually. In addition to welcoming students into nature’s classroom, we are developing and strengthening new online education resources, to reach more students.
Serve: Engage 1 million volunteers annually on public lands, effectively tripling the numbers we have now. We know that many more people are interested in volunteering at national parks, wildlife refuges and public lands, but there are often insufficient staff resources to coordinate them. In order to achieve the volunteer goal, we will place a renewed emphasis on volunteer coordination and management.
Work: To develop the next generation of lifelong conservation stewards and ensure our own skilled and diverse workforce pipeline, Interior will provide 100,000 work & training opportunities to young people within our bureaus and through public-private partnerships. As part of this effort, we aim to raise an additional $20 million to support the youth work and training opportunities.
Los Angeles is also one of 18 pilots for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership – a coalition of 13 federal agencies working to revitalize urban waterfronts and open spaces in cities, leading to healthier and more prosperous communities all over the country.