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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cities To Wilderness Program

The African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) has established  the “Cities To Wilderness Program" (CWP) to increase participation in wilderness activities by urban and suburban residents. The program also seeks to provide employment opportunities and unique wilderness experiences in American wilderness areas. 

Norris McDonald with interns at a creek clean up site

The purpose of the program is to expose young people from the inner city and suburbs to wilderness areas.  We believe such early exposure could lead to a lifelong environmental stewardship ethic.  We will seek to leverage the 50th anniversaries of the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act to create more interest in wilderness activities.  We want to take the 2014 anniversaries and utilize them to get more people from urban and suburban areas into wilderness areas.  We intend to work with numerous private sector stakeholders and multiple federal and state agencies to accomplish this mission.  The federal agencies include the Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

AAEA is working to develop multifaceted services that will combine the goals of the Wilderness and Civil Rights Acts into a program that promotes wilderness outreach, education and employment.  We intend to work with private sector stakeholders and serve as a conduit for ideas and activities with federal, state and city agencies.  Private sector stakeholders will include , NGOs, corporations and individuals.

AAEA will engage the Corps, Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service in implementing the CWP.  We will also seek to partner with other environmental organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy and The Wilderness Society.  We will also seek to engage students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to participate in the CWP.  We will also seek to include the Buffalo Soldiers in our CWP activities. 

The CWP will implement the following activities: trails preservation, creek and riverbank stabilization, creek and river crossings, outreach and anniversary activities.  All activities will conform to approvals, regulations and recommendations from the appropriate agencies.

There is an increasing disconnect between youth and nature, particularly in minority communities, that is directly contributing to health problems, a lack of direct interpersonal interactions, and gadget dependence.  Conversely, children who spend time in nature enjoy increased personal, social, cognitive, and health benefits, leadership and peer relationships. The CWP will provide young people with the tools and skills they need to get themselves and their peers back outside.    Positive outdoor adventures are a gateway to the development of stewardship ethics and civic engagement among youth.

The CWP includes trails restoration, creek and river bank stabilization, construction of creeks and river crossing infrastructure, and expanded outreach. 

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