Legislation would improve public health, support economic growth, and strengthen the future of conservation in America.
Yesterday, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, a bill to make it easier for kids to connect with the outdoors and realize the many physical and mental health benefits associated with a more active, outdoor lifestyle. Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-Wis.) in the House of Representatives.
“The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would enrich the lives of our children, improve public health, and benefit our outdoor recreation economy,” said Sen. Heinrich. “By taking a holistic approach to improving child well-being, this bill would provide our kids the opportunity to gain hands-on outdoor education, while giving them an introduction and lifelong connection to conservation and all that the natural world has to offer.”
Specifically the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would:
- Authorize federal financial assistance to eligible entities, in cooperation with local partners, for development of state-level strategic plans designed to support outdoor recreation, primarily for children;
- Direct the President to develop, with significant public input, a national plan, aligned with the state-level plans, to promote outdoor activity; and
- Give the the Secretary of the Interior the resources to conduct a study of the health impacts of the state-level strategies, provide technical assistance to eligible entities that receive funds, and disseminate best practices learned from the state-level strategies.
Senator Heinrich is a long time supporter of enhancing educational outdoor recreation opportunities for communities in New Mexico. He played a key role in establishing the 570-acre Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, the Southwest’s first urban wildlife refuge. Early in his career, Senator Heinrich served in AmeriCorps for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was the Executive Director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation where he led youth educational wilderness expeditions and outdoor programs in the American Southwest.
The Health Kids Outdoors Act is backed by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), which brings together more than 70 businesses and organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Association of State Park Directors, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, the Outdoor Foundation, Public Lands Service Coalition (a program of The Corps Network), REI, Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the natural world.
“The National Wildlife Federation has worked to connect people with nature for decades so that they will form a deeper desire to protect wildlife and wild places,” said Kevin Coyle, vice president for education and training for National Wildlife Federation. “We applaud Congressman Kind and Senator Heinrich for introducing legislation to bring families outside seeing wild places on a regular basis.”
Full text of the bill is available here.