Today’s column: Help get kids out in the woods |

Today’s column: Help get kids out in the woods

Common Ground
Bill Kight
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” When the chief of the Forest Service met with White River National Forest employees in Vail last week she emphasized three areas that are important to her: climate change, water and kids.

This was after each of the ranger districts made presentations of projects they are proud of and how they are helping address the chief’s concerns.

As the presenters noted and Chief Kimbell reiterated in her talk, the work the Forest Service is doing with kids has been going on for a long time, not just since she became chief.

The difference is in the delivery. When you hear Gail Kimbell speak you know she is the genuine article. She speaks with passion from the heart.

It is for that reason that her new program “Kids in the Woods” has taken off and succeeded in a short period of time.

Agency employees overworked with shrinking field staff and declining budgets are not getting behind some edict from on high if their leader’s words aren’t heartfelt.

Kids in the Woods came about after Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods” made it known that kids not getting outdoors is a critical situation. I have devoted more than one column to this issue.

So the Forest Service under Chief Kimbell’s leadership responded quickly by making grant money available for projects that brought children onto their national forests.

The response was overwhelming, and hundreds of projects were funded nation-wide.

So what is the White River National Forest doing about getting more kids outdoors?

Ask wildlife biologist Kim Potter, who works on the west side of the forest. She has an incredible and diverse base of volunteers who help her. They range in age from elementary school and college “kids” to adults.

If you don’t want to sign up yourself by the time she finishes with you I’ll buy you a cup of coffee so you can tell me eye-to-eye what’s keeping you from helping get kids outdoors.

The fact that Kim sets the example by volunteering her own time does not go unnoticed. She received the Rocky Mountain Region’s Excellence Award in Wildlife Partnerships this past year for “developing a wide array of wildlife partners.”

Kim and her fellow workers host up to 300 elementary and middle school age children every year to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day. Their theme for 2008 is Tundra to Tropics.

Then there’s Fishing Is Fun Day where the Forest Service, Colorado Division of Wildlife, White River Electric Association, Wyatt’s Sports Center, Hooked on Fishing International, the BLM and the town of Meeker help children learn to fish.

That’s not all they learn from Kim. They find out the interactions of the natural world, like which insects provide food for fish.

There’s more. Kids learn how to use binoculars, field guides and how to take notes on their observations. The important thing is they are learning hands-on … participating in the great outdoors.

Sound like you’d like to help get kids in the woods? Give us a call.

With 30 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week. He is also the partnership coordinator for the White River NF and can be reached at 948-1894.

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