US forest service environmental education programs - Reaching urban communities

The mission of United States Forest Service (USFS) is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nationís forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. USFS is one of the largest provider of environmental education. Relying on more than 30,000 employees in the natural resource management and research professions, the agency educates millions of people each year about the importance of ecosystems and provides them with opportunities to practice stewardship actions that result in sustainable use of natural resources. Environmental education (EE) programs are tailored to community issues and audience interests/needs, thus resulting in a staggering diversity of approaches, methods, community partners, and funding strategies. This in turn creates significant challenges in characterizing EE across the agency, determining how to provide direction and focus for field personnel and their community partners, coordinating the development and dissemination of programs/materials, and demonstrating how federal investment in EE improves the agencyís ability to address natural resource management-related challenges. The presentation will include brief summaries of various programs/activities to connect children to nature and enhance environmental literacy, as well as the results of a few key initiatives designed to address the challenges identified above including: 1. Adoption of the North American Association for Environmental Educationís (NAAEE) Guidelines for Excellence in EE; 2. Preliminary research in partnership with the University of Michiganís School of Natural Resources into how the agency can best evaluate EE program outcomes and impacts; and 3) electronic monitoring and reporting systems.