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Bipartisan Bill Provides 4th Graders With Free National Park Entry

Sep 21, 2017 05:27AM ● Published by Theresa Gilman

Every Kid Outdoors Act - Niki Tsongas

(Editor's Note: the following information was published on Congresswoman Niki Tsongas' website.)

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives and Senators have introduced the Every Kid Outdoors Act, legislation to provide America’s fourth graders and their families free entrance to all federally managed land, waters, and historic sites, including national parks – more than 2,000 sites in all.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO), Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced the bill in the House. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced the legislation in the Senate.  

The Every Kid Outdoors Act is aimed at encouraging kids to get outdoors and experience America’s public spaces, while engaging in healthy activity and educational programs.

Additionally, the bill encourages increased public/private partnerships between our federal lands, schools and private and nonprofit organizations. Since 2015, the Department of the Interior has offered fourth graders and their families free entrance to all federally managed public lands. In doing so, the program leveraged over $2 million in private donations and volunteer hours, and created hundreds of partnerships with schools, non-profits, and private sector businesses to support outdoor education programming and recreation opportunities for underserved youth. The program also contributed to the record-setting visitation to America’s national parks in 2016 as part of the #FindYourPark/Encuentra Tu Parque campaign to commemorate the Centennial of the National Park Service. The Every Kid Outdoors Act codifies this effort into law, which will encourage further collaboration with outside organizations and help leverage additional support, while providing for new and more widespread educational opportunities.

Congresswoman Tsongas said: “Our nation’s public lands protect, celebrate, and give access to the many places that have shaped and defined who we are as Americans. The Every Kid Outdoors Act will inspire a new and more diverse generation to embrace a healthy, active lifestyle, learn about our country’s natural and historic treasures, and fall in love with our public lands and the outdoors. I thank my colleagues for their dedication to this effort and look forward to seeing more kids experiencing these special places.”

Congressman Tipton said: “Growing up in western Colorado, National Parks have been a big part of my life. They are the backdrop of countless memories and educational experiences for me and my family, and I want to make sure kids across the country have the opportunity to experience the wonder that is our National Park System. Public/private partnerships can go a long way towards providing our communities with exciting opportunities that otherwise may not have been possible, and I look forward to seeing how schools across the nation will use this program to open up new worlds for their students when the Every Kid Outdoors Act is signed into law.”

Congresswoman DeGette said: “The outdoors is central to Colorado's way of life and our economy. Today’s fourth graders are tomorrow’s outdoor entrepreneurs and conservationists. Getting these students outside to enjoy our public lands – such as Rocky Mountain National Park or Black Canyon of the Gunnison – will help inspire future leaders to protect these wild places.”

Congresswoman Stefanik said: “As the home of the Adirondacks, we know how critical it is to get our children outdoors exploring our parks. This legislation will encourage our nation’s children to see our beautiful treasures and monuments, learning about our rich national heritage in the process. This will help cultivate their appreciation for protecting our environment and public lands. I am pleased to join this bipartisan effort to get our children outdoors.”

Senator Heinrich said:"Our national parks and public lands are outdoor classrooms with endless opportunities to learn and make memories. Connecting kids to the outdoors can inspire a lifelong connection to conservation, while reaping all of the health benefits that go along with an active lifestyle. The Every Kid Outdoors Act will give fourth graders and their families free access to explore the rich natural and cultural history on display in our parks, forests, and monuments.”

Senator Alexander said: “We sing about and believe in America the beautiful, and one of the best ways to experience that beauty is to explore our national parks. I grew up next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which means I really grew up in the park, and made many of my childhood memories there. It is my hope that 4th graders -- and their families -- across the country will take some time to explore our country’s national parks and create their own memories.”

The legislation is supported by several national organizations, including the Outdoors Alliance For Kids (OAK), National Recreation and Park Association, Sierra Club, YMCA of the USA, The Wilderness Society, National Park Trust, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Wildlife Federation, Trust for Public Land, and the Outdoor Industry Association. 

Jackie Ostfeld, co-founder and chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, said:“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids applauds the introduction of new bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for children to get outdoors. Today’s youth spend more time indoors than any generation in history, with dire consequences for their health and well-being. The Every Kid Outdoors Act is a low-cost, common sense solution to encourage children to get active and learn about the public lands, waters and shores that make America so special. This legislation will help turn the tide on a generation left inside and OAK looks forward to working across the aisle to see this bill signed into law.”

The text of the Every Kid Outdoors Act is here.

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