Formalizing an ambitious initiative to connect America's young people to the great outdoors, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today issued a Secretarial Order to significantly expand recreational, educational, volunteer and career opportunities for millions of youth and veterans on the nation's public lands, including partnerships with businesses and youth organizations to support the Obama Administration's 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC).
"If Americans are going to continue to have healthy lifestyles, healthy lands and a healthy economy, one of the steps we must take is to bridge the growing divide between young people and nature," Jewell said. "Under this order, we are establishing specific goals that the department, as manager of America's national parks, refuges and other public lands, will meet by working hand in hand with businesses, conservation organizations, Tribes, youth groups and other partners."
The Secretarial Order formalizes the goals of the youth initiative Jewell first outlined at a National Press Club speech on October 31, 2013. It sets forth specific benchmarks for increasing Interior's engagement with the next generation, empowers bureaus and offices to lead and implement a comprehensive strategy for meeting the goals, and outlines the accountability structure and implementation framework to achieve the goals, which are described as follows:
Play: Interior will develop or enhance outdoor recreation partnerships in a total of 50 cities over the next four years, to create new, systemic opportunities for outdoor play for over 10 million young people.
Learn: In four years, Interior will provide educational opportunities to at least 10 million of the nation's K-12 student population annually. In addition to welcoming students into public lands, Interior will leverage technology, including the recently launched National Park Service teacher portal, to bring our public lands to the classrooms.
Serve: In four years, Interior will attain one million volunteers annually on public lands. Interior will invest in volunteer management and coordination to ensure anyone who has an interest in devoting their time and talents to public lands has an opportunity to serve.
Work: Interior will provide 100,000 work and training opportunities to young people and veterans over four years within our bureaus and through public-private partnerships.
President Obama has made investing in America's youth a priority. The President's 2015 budget request for Interior proposes $50.6 million for youth programs and employment opportunities, a $13.6 million (or 37 percent) increase from 2014.
Three years ago, the Administration launched the 21CSC, a national collaborative effort to put America's youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring, and enhancing America's natural and cultural resources. This interagency effort is a central component of the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, which is helping to protect some of the places that Americans love most and to connect people from all backgrounds with the recreational, economic and health benefits of our nation's lands and waters.
In addition, Secretary Jewell has called upon the private sector and philanthropic organizations to contribute $20 million to fund additional employment opportunities through the 21CSC and provide pathways to employment for young people and veterans.
"In a time of constrained resources, we should be looking for innovative ways to achieve the same margin of excellence," Jewell said. "That is why we are asking corporations, foundations and philanthropists to join us by helping us raise funds needed for these programs, supporting volunteer efforts, and incorporating preferential hiring practices for corps members."
Already, two major companies, American Eagle Outfitters and Camelbak, have committed funds toward this goal. Funds will be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and awarded directly to youth conservation corps to hire young people and veterans.
Jewell noted that, with one third of the department's work force eligible to retire in five years, America needs to raise up a new vanguard of professionals to care for our natural and cultural resources for future generations.
"The next generation of scientists, wildlife biologists, tribal experts, park managers and conservation leaders are now in school or just entering the workforce," she said. "This is the time we need to invest in creating meaningful connections between young people and the great outdoors."