WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources markup, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) advanced legislation he introduced with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to provide America's fourth graders and their families free entrance to America's public lands, waters, and historic sites, including national parks -- more than 2,000 sites in all.
The Every Kid Outdoors Act received strong bipartisan support from the committee, demonstrating growing momentum. Senator Heinrich expressed the value of encouraging kids to get outdoors and experience America's public lands, while engaging in healthy activity and educational programs.
"Our national parks and public lands are outdoor classrooms with endless opportunities to learn and make memories," said Senator Heinrich. "Connecting kids to the outdoors can inspire a lifelong connection to conservation, while reaping all of the health benefits that go along with an active lifestyle. The Every Kid Outdoors Act will give fourth graders and their families free access to explore the rich natural and cultural history on display in our parks, forests, and monuments."
The Every Kid Outdoors (EKO) Pass would provide free entrance to federal public lands across New Mexico, including but not limited to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Valles Caldera National Preserve, Bandelier National Monument, El Malpais National Monument, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, Río Grande del Norte National Monument, White Sands National Monument, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and all National Forests.
Since 2015, the Department of the Interior has offered fourth graders and their families free entrance to all federally managed public lands. The Every Kid Outdoors Act codifies this effort into law, which will encourage further collaboration with outside organizations and help leverage additional support, while providing for new and more widespread educational opportunities.
The legislation is supported by the Outdoors Alliance For Kids (OAK), National Park Trust, National Recreation and Park Association, Sierra Club, YMCA of the USA, The Wilderness Society, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Wildlife Federation, the Trust for Public Land, and the Outdoor Industry Association.
Senator Heinrich, co-chair of the bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Caucus, is a longtime supporter of enhancing educational outdoor recreation opportunities for communities in New Mexico. He played a key role in establishing the 570-acre Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, the Southwest's first urban wildlife refuge. Early in his career, Senator Heinrich served in AmeriCorps for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was the Executive Director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation where he led youth educational wilderness expeditions and outdoor programs in the American Southwest.
In June, Senator Heinrich was honored by the National Park Trust with the 18th Annual Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award for his outstanding efforts to support and advocate for the protection of America's public lands and encouraging kids to experience the great outdoors.