2013 Nature Explore PSA highlights children interacting with nature in outdoor classrooms

The new, 2013 Nature Explore PSA has been posted on the Nature Explore website.

A collaborative effort of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, the mission of the Nature Explore program is to connect children with nature.

Today, children are more disconnected from nature than ever, more likely to spend idle time watching television indoors than running and playing outdoors.  If current trends continue, the next generation will enter adulthood facing greater health challenges, inferior social skills and a diminished conservation ethic.

NEC2With the development of Nature Explore Classrooms, children learn and play outdoors through experiencing the wonders of nature.

These well-designed outdoor spaces provide real-world evidence of the enormous benefit outdoor learning opportunities provide for children.

Proven to be beneficial for children affected by domestic violence, Mary Kay, Inc. has sponsored the development of 17 Nature Explore Classrooms at women’s shelters across the United States.

In urban areas where residents have limited access to nature and no backyards, places like Five Towns Child Care Center in Inwood, N.Y., or the Hooper Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, Calif., have built Nature Explore Classrooms to provide children and families with a safe place to spend time among grass, flowers, and trees, where children can explore, play, and learn nature’s many lessons.

NEC1There are currently more than a hundred certified Nature Explore Classrooms across the United States and Canada, and the list continues to grow.  As the network of Nature Explore Classrooms expands, the impact on children is also growing.  More children are developing meaningful connections with nature, instilling a lifelong sense of wonder and imagination.

Help connect more youths to the environment by sharing the 2013 Nature Explore PSA and spreading the word about the many benefits children experience when interacting with nature.

TV stations and networks can request the PSAs (:60, :30, :20, :15, :10) in your preferred format by emailing Sean Barry at sbarry@arborday.org.

Watch the 2013 Nature Explore PSA below:

Automatic federal budget cuts could increase risk of wildfires

Absent resolution this week from Congress, across-the-board spending cuts are slated to hit just about everything the federal government does beginning March 1.

Known in some circles as the “sequester,” the policy – enacted in 2011 as part of a deal to address the nation’s debt payments – will take 5.3 percent from domestic discretionary spending, including the U.S. Forest Service portion of the Department of Agriculture budget.

In Nebraska, the across-the-board agency cuts would result in a $1.3 million reduction in clean air and water programs, among other impacts, wrote the Lincoln Journal Star’s Don Walton.

“The sequester does not target or prioritize,” he added.

As a result of this absence of priorities, programs that support preventive steps against wildfires in our nation’s forests will be affected, with $134 million taken out of the U.S. Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Management Program.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, warned of “increased risk to communities from wildfires, with as much as 200,000 fewer acres treated for hazardous fuels.”

Added Sandra Postel of the National Geographic Society: “That means dead trees, dry brush and other fire-starting materials will not be removed.

“That would be worrisome even in a normal year, but in a severe drought it could prove calamitous,” she continued.

Officials have already struggled to keep up with prevention in Colorado and the Mountain West. Abrupt budget cuts would likely make matters worse.

Here’s hoping for a timely solution that gives our hard-working forest professionals the budget certainty they need to do their jobs.

Retiring U.S. Senator Mike Johanns an Arbor Day ally

Nebraska United States Senator Mike Johanns, who announced his retirement yesterday after more than three decades in public service, has been an ally of the Foundation and our programs in a number of areas.

nebraskaWith his colleague then-Senator Ben Nelson, Johanns introduced a resolution last year to commemorate the 140th anniversary of Arbor Day. The resolution noted the tree-planting holiday’s growing popularity around the world and encouraged Americans to find an event in their own community.

“It’s about more than simply planting a tree,” Johanns said at the time. “Arbor Day highlights the important role every one of us plays in land stewardship.”

We heartily agree. Effective policy – in land use, resource management and environmental protection – is necessary but insufficient absent our own conservation vision and involvement. As Johanns has pointed out, many rural communities in Nebraska and elsewhere rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. That makes long-term, sustainable management of those resources crucial.

Forestry resources are also of growing importance to tourism and economic development in cities and towns of all sizes.

We were fortunate to welcome Johanns and members of his staff to Arbor Day Farm last March. While on the property, the Senator had a chance to tour the Tree Adventure attraction and our greenhouse and hazelnut growing facilities, as well as work alongside crew members as they packed tree seedlings to be mailed to Arbor Day Foundation’s members.

“Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Arbor Farms in Nebraska City, where Morton’s legacy lives on in the important work that is being done there,” Johanns said in an e-news update following his visit. “Staff at Arbor Farms prepare and ship between 30,000 to 50,000 tree seedlings daily to places all around the world. Celebrating Arbor Day is a tradition in our state that appeals to Nebraskans’ natural civic duty and passion for the land. I am proud to share in this celebration today with my fellow Nebraskans.”

Best wishes to Senator Johanns and his wife Stephanie – and we look forward to getting to know his successor in 2015.

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Senator Johanns takes a turn at packaging tree seedlings.

Atlanta BeltLine links 45 neighborhoods, brings green space to residents

Cities around the country are finding creative ways to add and enhance recreational trails, a trend that helps bring the benefits of urban forestry to greater numbers of people.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a national advocacy group, has long encouraged communities to convert abandoned rail lines into trail networks.

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That vision has come to life in an exciting way along the Atlanta BeltLine, as the New York Times notes today:

Until last year, the old railroad tracks that snaked through east Atlanta were derelict. Kudzu, broken bottles and plastic bags covered the rusting rails.

But these days, the two-mile corridor bustles with joggers, bikers and commuters. Along a trail lined with pine and sassafras trees, condos are under construction and a streetcar is planned.

The current Eastside Trail is one part of a larger project that will eventually span 22-miles and include new housing and transit.

The story of how the BeltLine got off the ground is an inspiring one – and a reminder that one person with a vision can have a lasting impact on policy. It started as a graduate thesis at Georgia Tech in 1999. But rather than gather dust – and many theses do – it was picked up by then-Councilmember Cathy Woolard, who brought artists, environmentalists, real estate and transit advocates together to champion the plan.

Overtime, the BeltLine will become even greener – volunteers planted more than 600 trees along the trail last October.

The long-term benefits will also be substantial, with enhanced opportunity to spend time outdoors in the clean air and connect to different parts of the city, some of which have been left behind by previous development efforts.

“Build it and they will come” is how the saying often goes. But, in this case, the space is already there. It is just being re-purposed in creative ways – and already serving as an inspiration for other communities.

Photo courtesy of Atlanta BeltLine.

Recycled Christmas trees give back to storm damaged shores

It is February and Valentine’s Day is looming, but the Christmas Spirit of Giving lives on along the shores of Long Beach, N.Y.

Volunteers arranged nearly 3,000 recycled Christmas trees donated by residents and the local Home Depot along the beach with the intended purpose of restoring the protective dunes that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Photo Credit: New York Times

Photo Credit: New York Times

Hurricane Sandy significantly affected the Long Beach locality by washing away about half a million cubic yards of sand, resulting in an elevation loss of three to five feet in some areas along the beach.  Many residents were left dangerously exposed and vulnerable to future storms.

The plan to place the trees in the dunes was proposed by Long Beach residents and approved by city officials. According to the New York Times, “the trees are supposed to catch sand blown by the wind, until gradually the dunes grow up around them.”

Volunteers positioned the trees with their tops facing toward the surf. Officials hope this placement will be the most optimal for catching sand blowing from all directions.

Naturally growing grasses usually prevent and anchor sand from blowing or washing away, but the significant loss of sand has stalled the growth of grass. The recycled Christmas trees will take the place of the lost grasses to encourage the revitalization of natural dunes and plant growth.

States prone to hurricanes, such as the Carolinas and Florida, have been using Christmas trees to restore dunes for years. Additional localities in New York and New Jersey are also recycling Christmas trees to reinforce beaches damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Damaged dunes take two to three years to become fully re-established.

Long Beach residents hope to establish a tradition of adding more recycled Christmas trees every year to keep building up the dunes that act as their first line of defense against inclement weather, and they’re off to a great start.

We hope Long Beach and communities like it continue to heal and be a shining example of the impact and importance of recycling.