RELEASE: Senators Must Maintain Bold Investments in CCC, Urban Green Space Programs

Alliance of more than 100 Organizations Urges Congress to Keep Outdoors Programs in BBB Act

Friday, October 22, 2021

Contact: Ian Brickey: (202) 675-6270, ian.brickey@sierraclub.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids called on Congress to maintain full funding for critical outdoors programs in the final version of the federal reconciliation bill. The package drafted by the House of Representatives includes nearly $35 billion in funding for federal programs to support community tree planting, urban parks development, nearby nature access, and youth access to the outdoors and nature. While these programs are popular and necessary for taking on the climate crisis, their full funding is being threatened by potential cuts to the $3.5 trillion package.

In response, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) released the following statements:

“The Build Back Better Act could be one of the largest investments in outdoor accessibility and equity in a generation,” said Jackie Ostfeld, founder and chair of OAK and director of Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign. “After years of disinvestment in communities and neglect of our public lands, this ambitious proposal would help us build healthy and safe communities and ensure that future generations are able to establish direct and powerful connections with nature. From climate change to outdoor access to health, we’re facing multiple crises. We must have a bold vision to take on these challenges. We cannot miss this opportunity.”

“Right now, Congress has an historic opportunity to mobilize a powerful workforce of young people and veterans to address climate change, expand tree cover to cool communities, and increase access to nature and the outdoors for millions of Americans,” said Paul Sanford, OAK Vice Chair and Director of Recreation Policy at the Wilderness Society. “We urge Congress to seize this opportunity by using budget reconciliation to address the existential threat of climate change and provide close-to-home outdoor recreation and learning opportunities for everyone.” 

“We’re facing daunting challenges that are resulting in the severe deterioration of our natural environment and societal wellbeing. I believe that as a society, we’re finally approaching a meaningful understanding of the interrelated nature of these challenges and how to go about addressing them,” said Luis Villa, Executive Director of Latino Outdoors. “Investing in initiatives that boost our climate resilience and simultaneously help build a more robust and diverse community of outdoor enthusiasts and conservation constituents is a critical part of a comprehensive solution, one that we have no time to waste in implementing if we want to ensure a livable future for our children and their children.”

“The climate change and environmental injustice challenges we face must be met with bold solutions. The effects of climate change are at our doorsteps and the window is closing to make changes for the better. We urge Congress to seize this moment to invest in programs that will help us build more sustainable, resilient communities for all,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “A robustly-funded Civilian Climate Corps offers our country a historic opportunity to tackle critical environmental infrastructure projects and train the diverse, climate-ready workforce we need. For our health, our natural resources, and our future, we must act.”

“Enjoying the outdoors and reconnecting with nature in comunidad has always been essential to our Latino/a/x communities. Being in nature is critical to the mental health and wellbeing of our families and children- providing solace, a way to reconnect and reduce the stress in our everyday lives. We know that nearly 100 million Americans, including 28 million children, do not live within walking distance to open space,” said Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes, Water Equity and Ocean Program Manager with GreenLatinos. “That is why we must make sure that the Build Back Better Agenda continues to maintain bold investments to ensure that everyone has access to the outdoors regardless of where they live and their social or economic status -this includes investments to the Civilian Climate Corps and urban green space programs. These programs are crucial to building up the infrastructure we need to build healthy and safe communities while taking on the climate crisis.” 

“Parks are an essential part of improving public health, protecting vulnerable communities from the impacts of the climate crisis, and building strong community cohesion,” said Alex Schaefer, Sr. Legislative Representative at the Trust for Public Land. “Including urban parks funding in the Build Back Better Act will have a major impact on our nation’s nature gap and ensure resources go to communities who would benefit most.”

“Throughout the pandemic, people have turned to the outdoors for respite and found renewed strength in nature. We have seen the power of outdoor recreation to buoy communities and local economies during unprecedented challenges, as well as the urgency of addressing disparities in access to nature,” said Taldi Harrison, Senior Manager of Government Affairs at REI Co-op. “At the same time, this past year has made clear that our climate crisis threatens life outside for everyone, with severe wildfires, drought, flooding and hurricanes devastating communities across the country. At REI, we’ve committed to ambitious targets to address equity, climate, and access to the outdoors. However, to fully reach these goals, we need our federal government to do the same. The Build Back Better Act is an historic opportunity to harness the power of the outdoors to advance our national climate strategy, enhance health wealth and well-bring in urban and rural communities alike, and ensure that future generations enjoy a healthy and vibrant planet. We urge Congress to maintain robust funding for outdoor programs in the reconciliation bill that benefit us all.”

“America is on the cusp of making transformational investments in our infrastructure, our people, and our environment,” said Joel Pannell, Vice President of Urban Policy at American Forests. “Equitable investments in urban tree canopy and outdoor access will create jobs, build resilient infrastructure, and make our neighborhoods greener, cleaner, and healthier. Tree Equity is climate action we can take now to address the life and death consequences of extreme heat while generating economic opportunity in the very communities that have been historically underserved and are suffering most from the combined impacts of climate change.”

“It is time to break down the barriers to ensuring all children, all families, and all communities have access to safe and healthy natural spaces everywhere they live, work, and play,” said Sarah Bodor, Director of Policy for the North American Association of Environmental Education. “Investments in green infrastructure and workforce development are essential to achieving our climate goals and building a more just and sustainable future.”

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to give all young people, especially those in under-resourced communities a pathway to environmental education, service, conservation, recreation and employment,” said Katie Adamson, Vice President of Health Partnerships and Policy at YMCA of the USA. “Now more than ever our youth need nature to connect, build relationships and a sense of belonging and to understand their role in addressing the complex environmental challenges before us.”

WHAT THESE CUTS COULD COST US:

  • $30 billion for a modern Civilian Climate Corps. An ambitious CCC is necessary for reaching the goal of protecting 30% of lands and waters by 2030 to stave off the worst effects of climate change. It would create essential jobs paying a $15 per hour wage with full health care, access to transportation, housing and childcare for young people and veterans.
  • $3.1 billion for urban and community forestry support programs. These programs are essential to building up the green infrastructure we need to build healthy and safe communities and to take on the climate crisis.
  • $500 million for urban parks. Nearly 100 million Americans, including 28 million children, do not live within walking distance of a quality park.
  • $100 million for the Every Kid Outdoors program. Funding for EKO would provide opportunities for children to visit their national parks, public lands and waters, ensuring fourth graders and their families, especially underserved and disabled children, have opportunities to enjoy a park experience.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

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. www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org