Las Cruces, New Mexico – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Cruces District, in partnership with Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (Friends), is one of 186 Federal sites selected to receive a 2015 field trip grant from the National Park Foundation (Foundation), the official charity of America’s national parks. The grant was awarded to the BLM and the Friends to support efforts in educating and creating the next generation of public land ambassadors.
The grant, part of the Foundation’s Open OutDoors for Kids program, supports the White House youth initiative Every Kid in a Park. Excited with the District’s grant selection, BLM Las Cruces District Manager Bill Childress said, “The grant will support the BLM Ambassador Program, which consists of three educational segments targeting about 800 fourth graders in the Las Cruces, Deming, and Gadsden (Independent) Public Schools.”
“It is inspiring to see the National Park Foundation and many other partners step up to support our goal of getting fourth graders and their families into parks, public lands and waters that belong to all Americans,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “These generous grants will ensure children across the country have an opportunity to experience the great outdoors in their community while developing a lifelong connection to our nation’s land, water and wildlife.” Foundation grants have made it possible for more than 400,000 students (including this year’s grantees) to visit national parks and other public lands and waters.
“We want to help people everywhere, from all backgrounds, discover how national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands and waters are relevant to their lives, and the best way to do that is to give people the opportunity to experience them first-hand,” said Will Shafroth, president of the Foundation. “Through our grants that provide funding for transportation and in-park learning, we are able to connect youth and their families to these special places and inspire people across the country to find their park which, in turn, can foster a lifelong connection to all that public lands and waters have to offer.”
In the BLM Las Cruces District, the first educational segment consists of several field trips to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Prehistoric Trackways National Monuments, both a short distance from the City of Las Cruces. The students will be introduced to “Leave No Trace” principals, utilizing maps during their guided hikes and scavenger hunts.
The BLM will also host 400 students from three schools for a Cultural and Environmental Education Day at BLM’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The field trip will include a guided hike, with a living history interpreter. In this segment, the students will also participate in hands-on learning activities with BLM staff and partners, including archaeologists, geologists, biologists, and local artists and historians.
The BLM and the Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will also conduct a week-long day camp for 14 female fourth-graders. The camp will include transportation, meals, learning materials, and hiking equipment. In this educational segment, the students will visit and explore the BLM Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Prehistoric Trackways Monuments, Lincoln National Forest, and the White Sands National Monument. Students will also be engaged in activities to explore science, technology, engineering, math, and conservation career opportunities, as well as build their literacy in these fields.
These Every Kid in a Park programs will be conducted with BLM staff and partner organizations, including the Friends, Take It Outside, New Mexico!, and the Las Cruces, Deming, and Gadsden Public Schools. “The BLM staff is very excited about the three segments the Park Foundation grant will help support, and the opportunities these students will have to learn and become the next ambassadors for public lands,” said Childress.
For more information on the program, the public can contact BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner McKinney Briske at 575-525-4334.