The Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), and scores of dedicate partners are undertaking one of the most ambitious-and important-projects we have ever undertaken, The Florida Youth Conservation Center Network (FYCCN). We are proud to be spearheading the fundraising efforts for this crucial public/private partnership designed to reconnect Florida’s youth with nature and traditional outdoor activities.
FYCCN is a comprehensive plan for creating a network of Youth Conservation Centers throughout Florida designed to address the nature deficit disorder afflicting our young people.
The major challenge facing the Florida Youth Conservation Center Initiative is capturing the attention of Florida’s youth and actively engaging them in the outdoors. Overcoming this challenge will require that we:
- Better understand the motivations and the barriers to getting outdoors held by our most important customers, our youth and their parents;
- Create outdoor destinations and programs that are magnets for engaging the bodies, minds and spirits of our young people;
- Develop a simple, compelling blueprint for industry and private donor giving;
- Align a public-private-non-profit partnership of statewide scope.
Everywhere we turn we hear the scary “facts” about today’s children. They are increasingly sedentary; they spend too much time in front of the computer and playing video games; the amount of time they spend playing outside and being active keeps dropping drastically. The scariest thing is that it is all true. That is why organizations throughout our great nation are rapidly creating special programs to fight obesity among our youth, and it is why we must all work together to combat their increasing disinterest in being outdoors and engaging in traditional outdoor activities. We have to create the next generation that cares.
Why should our generation care? Because if current trends continue, our children’s life expectancy will be shorter than ours, the first time in history there has ever been that kind of failure. Plus, if we don’t act quickly, in a couple of generations the need for sporting goods, camping equipment, fishing and hunting licenses, boats, motels, hotels and campgrounds will dwindle to nothing. That would be a disaster for Florida where outdoor sporting events alone account for more than $30 billion annually in state revenues. If interest in nature and outdoor activities goes away, we’ll lose more than wildlife and natural habitats; we’ll lose everything that supports Florida’s unsurpassed quality of life.
The plan for the FYCC Network is based on the outstanding Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center in Tallahassee. We know what we have to do to succeed and we know that we have to start now. We also know it will take a public/private partnership working together. There is no longer any time to just sit on the sidelines and assume someone else will fix it. It has to be us, and it has to be now. With the State’s resources stretched to the limit, this will have to be a true public/private/non-profit partnership.
We know that kids who do not directly engage in the outdoors are less likely to develop a strong stewardship ethic for conserving America’s wildlife. To put it plainly, if they do not make the connection, they are not going to be concerned about the wild outdoors that our generation has protected.