News Releases

FWC committed to Youth Conservation Center initiatives

News Release

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Media contact: Henry Cabbage, 850-528-1755

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) heard a report Thursday on an ambitious plan to help youngsters connect with nature. Vice Chairman Dick Corbett of Tampa is the FWC's spearhead to establish a statewide network of youth conservation centers, modeled after the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center near Monticello.

Turner contributed property and other resources to establish the first center to begin the task of saving children from what conservationists call "nature deficit disorder." Meanwhile, Corbett has been rallying people and the business community to keep up the momentum.

"It's a very simple strategy," Corbett said. "We have the chance to help create the next generation who cares for Florida."

The centers will provide opportunities for young people and families to participate in outdoor activities and share experiences that strengthen connections with and support for fish and wildlife conservation. Some of the activities include hunting, fishing, kayaking, archery, wildlife viewing and nature encounters.

Corbett said the prevailing disconnection between children and nature has carried serious consequences, such as childhood obesity and a tenfold increase in childhood diabetes. The most alarming consequence is that for the first time in history, today's children have a shorter life expectancy than previous generations.

Kids who are physically active and spend time outdoors have better overall coordination, balance and agility and are sick less often. They have improved concentration and fewer symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder after spending time in nature.  In addition, they have a lower incidence of obesity and related diseases, such as type-2 diabetes.

"We hope to create the next generation of outdoor recreation enthusiasts and conservationists who will continue the work of protecting our wildlife and natural habitats," Corbett said. "Spending time in nature helps children develop an affinity for the great outdoors."

Commissioner Brian Yablonski also has put his shoulder to the wheel to keep momentum behind developing the youth conservation center network.

"This issue is real," Yablonski said. "The national trends show a clear decline in participation in outdoor activities. Florida is in a position to lead the way in reconnecting kids, families and communities to the outdoors."

The initiatives will undertake tearing down the barriers that keep children from interacting with nature. For instance, the perception that it's dirty and dangerous outdoors is a problem for many. The new centers will overcome that perception and introduce youngsters to activities that appeal to them.

Plans include partnerships with local governments, schools, organizations and others; pooling resources and expertise; and crafting sound business models.

FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said, "The payoff will be generations of kids who are healthier, intellectually stimulated, socially more adjusted and who demonstrate greater respect for themselves, others and the environment. Scientific research confirms these benefits."

The plan calls for the first Wild Outdoors Youth Conservation Center to take shape at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area, near Lakeland. It will cost about $825,000 to build the classroom, restrooms, visitor's center, office and storage space for the facility.

"That figure is beyond the FWC's capacity, but it is within the means of a motivated set of people who love Florida and want to be part of ensuring a rich natural legacy for generations," Barreto said.

The Wildlife Foundation of Florida has set up an account for holding donations and other funds.  All donations are tax-deductable, and they will help fashion the future for our children.

For more information, contact Bill Cline at 850-413-0084.

"If you can't send a donation, at least take a kid outdoors and show him or her the forests, waters, animals and things that make up such a big part of this world," Corbett said. "Bonding with a child in that kind of context is priceless."



FWC Facts:
The Florida panther, Florida's official state animal, is one of the most endangered animals on earth, with an estimated 100-160 adults and subadults remaining in southern Florida.

Learn More at AskFWC