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Inspiring Outdoor Stewards

Salt Lake City was selected as one of the first 50 cities to participate in a nationwide movement to inspire and encourage young people to experience the outdoors.  U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined Mayor Ralph Becker, Vice President and General Manager of American Express Salt Lake City Victor Ingalls, and President and CEO of the YMCA of Northern Utah Rich West to announce grants totaling $258,653 to organizations throughout Utah, including the Utah Conservation Corps, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, River Restoration Adventures for Tomorrow, and American Conservation Experience.

“For the health of our economy and our nation’s public lands, it’s critical that we work now to establish deep, meaningful connections between young people – from every background and every community – and America’s great outdoors.” -Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The initiative, funded as part of a $5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the YMCA of Northern Utah to create a community coordinator position to facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands in Salt Lake City, from local parks to federal lands and waters. The funding will also support efforts to engage young adults and veterans to serve on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps and engage new volunteers during next year’s National Park Service Centennial.

“When young people are given an opportunity to care for public lands, their experiences often inspire lifetime connections to their backyard parks and beyond,” said Secretary Jewell. “Volunteering opens doors to new and exciting career opportunities that can transform the personal lives of youth while benefiting the communities and special places they work to improve.”

“Salt Lake City is home to one of the most beautiful natural settings in the country and we couldn’t be more thrilled by this news. Our children benefit enormously from spending more time in nature, and this new funding will help us expand our work in Salt Lake City to help increase the amount of time our kids spend outdoors.” – Mayor Ralph Becker.

Victor Ingalls, American Express Vice President and General Manager in Salt Lake City said, “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America’s parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America’s public lands and treasured national parks.”

“Many people in our urban neighborhoods don’t always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” said Rich West, President and CEO of the YMCA of Northern Utah. “This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities to deepen connections to these natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen our community.”

The movement is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative and part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the President’s recently announced Every Kid in A Park initiative to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year, and the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign preparing for next year’s centennial of the National Park System.

For more information about the initiative, visit:

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, Press Release, “Interior Department Selects Salt Lake City as Priority City to Connect Youth to the Great Outdoors,” August 6, 2015.

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