DeGette, Tipton introduce bill to make permanent a popular national parks program for fourth-grade students
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Scott Tipton (R-CO) introduced bipartisan legislation today to make permanent an existing national parks program that allows U.S. fourth-grade students, and their families, to visit any federally-managed parks, lands or waters for free for an entire year.
The popular, low-cost program was first established in 2015 by U.S. Department of the Interior to encourage children and their families to visit America’s public lands.
In the program’s first year alone, more than two million fourth-grade students downloaded the Every Kid in a Park pass. However, despite its popularity, the program has not yet been established into federal law, making it vulnerable to future budget cuts or the whims of a future administration.
If approved, the legislation – known as the “Every Kid Outdoors Act” – would codify the program into law, making it permanent and irrevocable by any future administration.
“Children are our future,” DeGette said. “If we’re able to get them more interested in our public lands now, research shows that they are much more likely to become good stewards of these national treasures later on down the road.”
“As a life-long resident of Western Colorado, National Parks and Monuments have been the backdrop of countless memories, and I want to make sure that all kids have the same opportunity to experience these treasures,” Tipton said. “Economic barriers should not prevent children and their families from visiting these sites that belong to every one of us.”
The Every Kid in a Park program allows U.S. fourth-grade students to print a pass online and present it to a park ranger for free entry into any of the more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters throughout the nation. The pass also grants free entry to up to three adults and any other children under the age of 16 who are visiting with that fourth-grade student.
Research shows that children ages nine to 11 are beginning to learn about the world around them and are most likely to connect with nature and our history. Research also shows that time spent outdoors increase physical and mental health, improves academic performance and encourages public lands stewardship.
The pass can be used to enter any of Colorado’s four national parks – Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain – as well as sixty other nationally designated sites throughout the state.
In addition to DeGette and Tipton, the bill is sponsored by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Tom Graves (R-GA).
A nearly identical version of the bill was approved by the House last year, by a vote of 383 to 2. That bill, however, was not voted on by the Senate.
The bill has the support of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, Alliance of Childhood, Seed Your Future, National Recreation and Parks Association, National Park Trust, NatureBridge and Wilderness Inquiry.
“The Every Kid Outdoors Act is great, low cost way to connect children and their families to America’s parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and waters. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids thanks Representatives DiGette, Tipton, Quigley, Stefanik, Lynch and Graves for their leadership in making this popular program permanent,” said Paul Sanford with the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.
“The Alliance for Childhood is thrilled about the reintroduction of the Every Kid Outdoors Act and appreciates the commitment of Congresswoman DeGette and all of the co-sponsors supporting this legislation. This bill will help ensure equitable opportunities for fourth graders to experience active, child-directed play in our natural world. Anchoring the Every Kid in a Park program with legislation will support life changing developmental opportunities for the children who need it most,” said Linda Rhoads with the Alliance for Childhood.
“Seed Your Future wholeheartedly supports the Every Kid Outdoors Act, and all programs that encourage kids and families to learn about, enjoy and play together in the natural world. For the next generation to appreciate, preserve and protect our parks – and consider careers in the industry — they need frequent, affordable opportunities to discover the joys of nature. We encourage the swift passage of the EKO Act and continuing the opportunities to connect young people with a world that fosters their creativity, provides physical and mental health benefits, and helps them understand the world that provides life, food and wonder,” said Susan E. Yoder with Seed Your Future.
“At NRPA, we believe everyone deserves a great park. That’s why we’re proud to support the ‘Every Kid Outdoors Act,’ which increases access to parks and open space for children nationwide. Thank you to Congress for introducing this important piece of legislation. Increased access to parks provides communities everywhere with greater health and wellness opportunities, and a better understanding of the value of conservation,” said Barbara Tulipane with National Recreation and Park Association.
"On behalf of 4th graders and their families across the country, we support the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. Through our national Buddy Bison Program and our work with hundreds of teachers across the country, we have seen first hand how powerful this program is in providing an “access trail” for children, especially those who live in under-resourced communities. These children are our future outdoor enthusiasts and advocates of these important landscapes and historic and cultural sites,” said Grace Lee with National Park Trust.
“As the largest residential education partner of the National Park Service, NatureBridge’s mission is to connect young people to the wonder and science of the outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act is an extension of that mission, and we support any opportunity to connect even more kids to the natural world,” said Autumn Saxton-Ross with NatureBridge.
“Wilderness Inquiry applauds the reintroduction of the Every Kids Outdoors Act. We know the power of bringing people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities into our National Parks, and through this legislation thousands of young people will get the opportunity experience these special places firsthand,” said Greg Lais with Wilderness Inquiry.