Friends, As kids across the country headed back to school this week after the Summer and Labor Day weekend, it’s important to reflect on the fact that too many students won’t have the chance to enjoy field trips to the great outdoors. Visits to parks and nature centers were once a staple of a good education, but in recent years it has been all too common to see headlines across the country lamenting that schools have to cut back because of strained budgets and standardized testing that makes it difficult for teachers to justify field trips in their curricula. That needs to change.
Yesterday Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell marked the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act as well as the 50th Anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, which directs a small portion of revenues from federal offshore oil and gas leasing to support parks, boat ramps, bike trails and other recreational facilities, conservation projects and historic preservation across the nation. Those two laws protected more than 109 million acres of pristine landscapes. Our kids should be able to visit them.
We commend the Secretary for commemorating these important laws, but it’s also important that the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management implement a ‘smart from the start’ approach to the leasing of public lands. Too often they’re leased without engaging our communities, and that puts those lands that our families use for recreation, close to our homes, in danger of being used or blocked for oil and gas drilling. There has to be a better balance, and it starts with engaging our community as partners. To be clear, this isn’t just an issue of big national parks and monuments, but also the public lands that are closer to our neighborhoods, and that are more accessible for fishing, hiking, and hunting.
As far as getting more kids and more families outdoors, we can all do more to help. As I wrote in our last update, our Deputy Director Max Trujillo and I are collaborating with the Fish & Wildlife Service and the Hispanic Access Foundation to take families out to enjoy the outdoors, and to help promote that connection to the land that so many of us take for granted. Stay tuned, we’ll keep you posted as they come together, and hope you can join us as they do. We’re also working to engage more Latino voices in these efforts, and I’m excited that I’ll be attending the Latino Eco-Festival in Colorado next week.
If you’re in Boulder on September 13th & 14th join us at the Americas Latino Eco-Festival, “A New Shade of Green.” I’ll be speaking on a panel with other leaders from the Latino community, as well as Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. Click on the image to the right for details.
Thanks for your support, and hope to see you in Colorado!
Rod Torrez Director