, May 29, 2009 (ENS) - To entice young people outdoors and help them reconnect with nature, the National Wildlife Federation and the Turner Foundation hosted a workshop Wednesday together with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center 30 miles east of Tallahassee.
This center is the first of its kind in Florida. "This center is the starting point for something quite momentous, and we are excited that conservation, sportsmen and outdoor recreation leaders from across the nation have come here to experience the center firsthand," said Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Brian Yablonski, who attended the workshop.
"Truly this center is the blueprint for what can happen all over Florida and the United States if we all work together to bring youths back outdoors," Yablonski said.
Beau Turner, son of CNN founder and philanthropist Ted Turner, donated 160 acres of land and developed state-of-the-art facilities where young people can connect with the outdoors. He has leased these facilities at no cost to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, establishing the state's first public-private conservation effort aimed at young people and resource conservation.
"The youth center addresses the challenge of getting children involved in the outdoors and away from computers and video games," Turner said.
Young people at the Beau Turner Center, March 2009. (Photo courtesy FWC)
The center offers hunter safety courses, bowhunting and archery, instruction on living with wildlife, boating safety and fishing.
"It's a place where they can participate in exciting outdoor activities and also learn about the environment, land use and alternative energy," Turner said. "Wednesday's meeting included voices from all over the country demonstrating that the outdoor community is dedicated to this idea and building toward the future."
The workshop gathered staff from the three partnering organizations, along with members of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, BASS, the Conservation Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Get Outdoors Florida!, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, various universities and others.
Turner also opened up 900 acres adjacent to the youth center for the FWC's Youth Hunting Program, which encourages landowners to share their land to preserve hunting traditions in Florida for future generations.
"Every American child should have the opportunity to understand and enjoy the natural world," said Michael Finley, president of the Turner Foundation. "The example set by the FWC and Beau Turner at the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center is a model that can be easily adopted and adapted to the rest of Florida and other states."
The workshop focused on using the center as a pattern for making other such facilities available across the state and nation, and the participants agreed that the center can be the prototype for other venues.
The new Get Outdoors Florida! coalition, which brings together partners to encourage youth and family participation in active outdoor recreation is one way to create opportunities to drive more kids to BTYCC as well as using it as a model throughout Florida.
Future plans include compiling research on landowner liability and good Samaritan protections nationally, so other landowners can make property available for outdoor recreation and outreach.
An effort also is in the works to study and compare behavioral changes associated with personal health, school grades, conservation stewardship and social behaviors between those who participate in outdoor activities and those who do not participate.
"Today we set in place the blueprint for other private landowners in Florida to donate land so that more youths can experience the wonders of nature while learning the importance of conservation stewardship," said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
"This center embodies everything that the National Wildlife Federation's BE OUT THERE campaign is all about," Schweiger said, "and we hope to expand this model into other areas of the state and potentially across the country."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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