The U.S. Department of the Interior will expand agency initiatives to connect youth to the great outdoors, Secretary Ken Salazar announced Monday.
Speaking at the Corps Networks annual forum, Secretary Salazar said he will increase youth employment opportunities at the Interior bureaus by 50 percent in 2010. Salazar also highlighted the departments proposed 26 percent budget increase of $9.3 million for the Office of Youth in Natural Resources, an initiative that aims to employ youth and young adults with careers in natural resources. Secretary Salazar is making this work a priority in light of soaring youth unemployment rates and the troubling, growing trend of children spending half as much time outdoors as they did just 20 years ago.
Kevin Coyle, Vice President for Education and Training at the National Wildlife Federation, said in response:
We applaud Secretary Salazar for his pledge to connect youth to the great outdoors through education and employment opportunities at the Department of Interior. In addition to addressing high youth unemployment rates, the secretarys leadership will help engage Americans of all backgrounds in true career pathways in natural resource fields.
The proposed funding increase for the Youth in Natural Resources initiative will enable key agencies such as the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management to develop innovative approaches through environmental education, recreation, and service to engage diverse youth on public lands and pique their interest for careers in public service.
This investment by Secretary Salazar comes at a critical time. Todays children have less contact with nature than any previous generation. A new Kaiser Family Foundation study finds that the average American child spends almost eight hours a day glued to electronic entertainment media. Thats more than the equivalent of a full-time workweek.
At the same time, other studies show that kids spend an average of four minutes per day playing outside! This imbalance is costing our children their health in the form of obesity, diabetes, and attention deficit issues. Expansion of Interior Department programs can empower and employ Americas youth and help get them outside.
The National Wildlife Federation inspires Americans to protect wildlife for our childrens future.