Interior Assistant Secretary Lyle Laverty Promotes Partnerships and the Need to Get Children Outdoors

Lyle Laverty, Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, addressed the September Recreation Exchange with a call for more innovative partnerships. His remarks included an emphasis on the importance of children-and-nature initiatives and the observation that goals here and for other priorities will be best achieved by replacing talk of partnerships with “the real thing.”

Mr. Laverty championed interagency connectivity and synergy to best serve the interests of the American people. He stressed the importance of bringing the “federal family” together on recreation efforts, and cited a new “Pledge of Cooperation” on outreach to youth as demonstrating both the commitment to interagency partnerships and the ability to leverage agency strength through cooperation. Mr. Laverty also commented that the current atmosphere of financial uncertainty allows for greater incentives for federal agencies to partner with the private and nonprofit sectors and to engage volunteers in their efforts.

The task of getting kids re-engaged with the outdoors is crucial, Mr. Laverty said, posing the question, “If we don’t, who will care about the outdoors tomorrow?” He said the best way to accomplish the goal of getting kids off their couches and away from video screens is to talk to them. In his travels, Mr. Laverty has found real interest among children in being outdoors. For example, in Hawaii he met a group of school children who prefer to be outdoors than indoors, “because we can’t ride our skateboards in the house!” He noted that this response is strikingly different from the children Richard Louv quotes in his book Last Child in the Woods – who choose to play indoors “because that’s where the plugs are.” Children are also responsive to the connection between outdoor recreation and health, Mr. Laverty observed. When he asked the children how to best attract others to the outdoors, they replied, “Tell them it burns calories!” Mr. Laverty spoke passionately about his young granddaughter, who, after bring exposed to the outdoors, wants to be a conservationist when she grows up, and said that those in the recreation business need to cultivate a passion for nature in young people like her.

Mr. Laverty asked the group to support the October 14 launch of “Get Outdoors, It’s Yours!” a new and unified federal agency outreach effort to get kids outdoors. The campaign will include public service announcements featuring the popular teen band the Jonas Brothers and will be on podcasts and shown in movie theaters across the country.

When asked about how recreation can stay in the forefront during the Administration transition, Mr. Laverty replied that the recreation industry must highlight its current and future cooperative efforts with organizations like the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Transportation in order to transcend any sense of partisanship. “It is also important to continue making the rounds in Congress with our issues, using a consistent design and a sharp focus, keeping in mind things are going to take a lot of hard work,” Mr. Laverty said. Other important partners include county commissioners, he said, who can have enormous impact on land use and recreation policies but need a better understanding of the far-reaching significance of their decisions. “If we want to help our county commissioners make better decisions,” Mr. Laverty said, “it’s going to take one-on-one contact and information sharing. Six thousand acres of open space are lost everyday. People need to know the resource implications of that fact.”

Recreation Exchanges are hosted in Washington, D.C. by the American Recreation Coalition, featuring guests who are influencing recreation public policy in America. Information on past and future programs is available at:

If you would like to contact Lyle Laverty, he can be reached as follows:
Lyle Laverty
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
MS 3156 MIB
Washington, DC 20240
(202) 208-5347, fax (202) 208-4684

Recreation Exchanges are made possible by the following sponsors:
American Association for Nude Recreation
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
Kampgrounds of America
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Park Service
National Recreation and Park Association
Personal Watercraft Industry Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service