FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Contact: Ian Brickey (314) 238-6766 or firstname.lastname@example.org
After Pressure, Interior Extends Every Kid Outdoors Pass
Outside Groups Had Asked for Extension Since August Expiration
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, October 28, the Department of the Interior announced plans to extend the 2019-2020 Every Kid Outdoors pass into 2021. The move comes after environmental and youth recreation groups launched a campaign for the department to extend the pass for fourth graders and families that could not visit public lands and waters due to closings instigated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a victory for fourth graders and families across the country,” said Jackie Ostfeld, director of Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign and founder of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “After months of inaction, Interior has finally responded to our calls to extend the program so no child misses an opportunity to visit our beautiful national parks because of COVID-19. Extending the EKO pass means that our kids and families will be able to find respite and health on our public lands and waters, right when they need it most. Thank you to all the members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and thousands of advocates, who helped secure this important victory.”
The EKO pass offers fourth graders and their families free admission to public lands and waters. The 2019-2020 pass expired on August 31, preventing many families from accessing national parks due to state-level stay-at-home orders and closures of many national parks facilities.
The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) launched a public campaign to encourage Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to extend the pass into 2021, including nearly 8,000 online actions by supporters. Sen. Martin Heinrich and Sen. Lamar Alexander along with Rep. Elise Stefanik also sent bipartisan letters to the department urging them to extend the pass. The department initially stated they had no power to extend the pass without action from Congress, but after OAK’s campaign made headlines in September, Bernhardt reversed course and began exploring options to extend the program.
“At a time when young people are spending their days in front of computer screens engaged in remote learning, it is vitally important to extend a hand to kids to invite them to get outdoors and experience the amazing things that America’s national parks and public lands have to offer,” said Paul Sanford, National Recreation Policy Director at The Wilderness Society. “The Every Kid Outdoors park pass is a great way to extend that invitation. Providing fifth graders with another chance to use the pass means more kids will connect with America’s public lands and enjoy the health benefits they have to offer. That will make kids healthier and happier and help them learn better.”
“The YMCA applauds the U.S. Department of Interior’s decision to extend the Every Kid in a Park pass for students who weren’t able to take advantage of it this year,” said Kevin Washington, President and CEO of YMCA of the USA. “Experiences that the pass makes possible can help kids develop an appreciation for the historic, cultural and recreational value of our public lands, and can accelerate their growth as the next generation of stewards of these lands. We thank Congresswoman Stefanik for her leadership on this bipartisan effort and the Department for its commitment to ensure that every kid has access to the outdoors.”
About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors.