FWC committed to Youth Conservation Center initiatives
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
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
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
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
For more information, contact Bill Cline at
"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."