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Fee-free day: Have an adventure at national forests and grasslands

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Forest Service offers a fee-free day on June 8 in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day, an annual event to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun.

The Forest Service offers fee-free four times a year. The first such fee-free period in 2013 was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The other days are Sept. 28 for National Public Lands Day and Nov. 9-11 for Veterans Day weekend.

“The country’s forests and grasslands beckon people from coast to coast to come hike, bike, fish and camp this weekend,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “A tank of gas can give you memories with family and friends that will last a lifetime. It’s worth the trip.”

Encouraging Americans to reconnect with nature, especially on public lands, is consistent with President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative that seeks to empower Americans to share in the responsibility to conserve, restore and provide better access to our lands and waters, and leave a healthy and vibrant outdoor legacy for generations to come. National Get Outdoors Day also supports Let’s Move Outside!, First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to raise a healthier generation by engaging kids and families in active, outdoor recreation across public lands and waters.

“These special days are our way to encourage you to be a kid again, no matter your age or your level of outdoor experience,” said Joe Meade, director of the agency’s Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources. “Public lands can help you de-stress from the office or build lifelong memories with your family.”

The pilot effort of National Get Outdoors Day was launched June 14, 2008, through a partnership between the Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition. The partnership built on the success of More Kids in the Woods and other efforts to connect Americans – especially children – with nature and active lifestyles. Go Day, as it sometimes called, now includes federal, state and local agencies, key organizations and recreation businesses to create activities across the country.

Forest Service lands, which include 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, offer something for everyone, from the casual hiker to the thrill-seeking recreationist. There also are opportunities and programs for children, from Discover the Forest that helps kids learn what to do outside to becoming a Junior Forest Ranger that comes with special access to the online “JFR Clubhouse.”

The programs, such as GO Day, are designed to reach all Americans, from those in rural, forest-dependent communities to those in diverse, under-served communities. More than 165 million people visited forests and grasslands and more than 6 million people participated in environmental education, recreation and related literacy programs in recent years.

Outdoor recreation benefits American society today more than ever. America spends $2 trillion dollars on crisis medical health care, and obesity and physical inactivity are major risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Physical activity is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and outdoor recreation is the natural solution – a disease prevention solution – and part of the nation’s existing wellness infrastructure.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

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Posted by on Jun 3 2013.
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