Ed. Note: Watch a video of Secretary Salazar talking with the students from Bruce Monroe at Parkview Elementary School about their favorite outside activities.
Growing up on a ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, my parents taught me and my seven brothers and sisters that our way of life depended on the health of the lands, waters, and wildlife around us. Though we had no television, electricity, or telephones on our ranch, the beauty of our surroundings and our experiences in the great outdoors enriched our lives.
Today, however, Americans are losing touch with the land, water, and wildlife that sets our nation apart. Children spend half as much time outside as their parents did. That means less time fishing and swimming, hunting and hiking, camping and exploring. This trend is one that we can and must reverse by helping young Americans get outdoors and reconnect with the places that make our country so special.
Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss this important issue with a fourth grade class at Bruce Monroe at Parkview Elementary School in Washington, D.C. We talked about the outdoors, conservation, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. I am always so encouraged by the enthusiasm and sprit of our nation’s young people, and this class was no exception. Taught by Teach for America corps member Will Harman, the student’s were eager to learn more about protecting our natural and cultural heritage.
With the enthusiasm of young people like those at Bruce Monroe at Parkview Elementary School, and with new initiatives to encourage young people to get outdoors, we can help reconnect Americans to the places they love. That’s why at the Department of the Interior we are expanding our efforts to educate the next generation of conservationists and community leaders. Our parks, refuges and Interior programs throughout the nation offer opportunities for youth to learn about our lands, our waters, and our cultural heritage. These programs turn Interior lands into outdoor laboratories where students and teachers can experience firsthand the science lessons they learn in the classroom.
To learn more about Interior’s youth programs, click here. I look forward to seeing you in America’s great outdoors.
Ken Salazar is Secretary of the Interior