Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer visits with members of the Greening Youth Foundation while hiking at Cascade Springs. Photo credit: Michael Williams
A peaceful forest setting mixed with sounds of birds and running water provides a feeling of solitude one would expect in a remote wilderness. But this area is anything but remote. Nestled in the shadow of Atlanta’s metropolitan skyline resides a green jewel so secluded and tucked away that many pass the main entrance without even noticing.
Part of the larger Atlanta Children’s Forest Network, Cascade Springs Nature Preserve provides 135 acres of isolated urban forest inside Atlanta’s perimeter. The Children’s Forest is instrumental in connecting underserved communities with conservation education and career paths. Yet for six young adults from inner-city Atlanta, these hidden woodlands in the heart of the city represent more than a forested landscape; they symbolize life-altering experiences. Read more »
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer is all smiles with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders as they hold up their Every Kid in a Park passes. Smokey Bear got in on the fun, too, and provided the kids with a special packet of information about wildfire prevention. (U.S. Forest Service)
With more than 40 years of professional experience working in the field of natural resources, I am sometimes asked to share the personal outdoor experiences I had as a tribal member growing up on my reservation. When the request involves children, and those children are Native American, I am especially honored because in my culture the elders share traditional teachings of how we are connected to nature, both through stories and traditional songs.
As we celebrate Earth Day 2016, I am reminded of a recent invitation from the U.S. Forest Service Tonto National Forest and Smokey Bear to speak at a career day on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. I had an audience of 180 tribal fourth graders from Rice Elementary School to share my experiences growing up on a reservation and the lessons I learned about the outdoors. Read more »
Often I am asked to participate in events in my role as a Deputy Undersecretary. Other times I participate based on my heritage, as a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Sometimes, the lines blur, as they did recently when I addressed those attending the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign meeting here at USDA.
Pollinator health is tied closely to the overall health of ecosystems. Pollinators are important to producers of a wide variety of crops, and to forest health. Native Americans grasp how all things are interconnected. I told the audience that when I was a boy, my relatives would sing songs in Apache. These songs were about things in nature: evergreens, water, even the rocks. All things are tied to Mother Earth: all things work together. So it is with pollinators. Read more »
Daniel Stevenson, carpentry student of the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center shows Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service a map he created of the 28 Job Corps Centers in the United States at the 50th Anniversary of the Job Corp Civilian Conservation Centers celebration at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Wed. Sept. 17, 2014. The U.S. Forest Service operates the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Corps, the Nation’s largest residential, educational and career technical training program for young Americans. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act. This Act, part of the government effort to wipe out poverty, created the Job Corps program, which has had a positive effect on countless young lives, giving them a chance to break multi-generational cycles of poverty, get an education, and find jobs in the federal and private sectors, and in the military. The U.S. Forest Service works closely with the Department of Labor to operate Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (Job Corps CCCs) around the country.
Last week, dignitaries including Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, and Tina Terrell, Forest Service National Director of the Job Corps, along with colleagues from the Department of Labor, came together in Washington at USDA’s Whitten Building to mark the anniversary. Read more »
A recent tree planting and habitat restoration service project at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was part of activities to announce $6.7 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands. From left, Erin Connelly, Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands; Agnes Mukagasana a youth from Groundwork Denver; Daniel Jirón a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service; and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer were part of the tree planting and habitat restoration service project. (U.S. Forest Service)
Agnes Mukagasana, an eager, next-generation youth involved in conservation, paused for a moment to adjust her hat in the afternoon Colorado sun and assess her well-honed tree-planting technique.
She learned her skills as an employee of Groundwork Denver, an organization dedicated to the sustained improvement of the physical environment through community-based partnerships including federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.
Mukagasana and other area youth recently took part in a ceremony where the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior joined representatives of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several other partners at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The ceremony announced $6.7 million in joint USDA, Department of Interior and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands around the country as part of the President’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Initiative. Read more »
Youth who were part of the filming of “Untrammeled” marvel at the stars appearing overhead, as twilight descends on camp in the Scapegoat Wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)
While my days of adventuring into the back country are by no means over, it is becoming increasingly apparent that my generation is approaching the inevitable time when we must pass the torch on to the next generation of wilderness and natural resource stewards.
On my recent trip to Missoula, Montana, I was privileged and extremely pleased to see a group of young people who will help carry that torch. My heart is more at peace about our future after my experience viewing the U.S. Forest Service movie “Untrammeled” at the University of Montana. Read more »