Outdoor Alliance for Kids awards four lawmakers and Paul Sanford of Wilderness Society for leadership in connecting kids with nature

Nov 1, 2017

left to right: Kyle Stewart, Alliance of New York State YMCAs; Casey Andrews, Seattle Every Kid in a Park Collaborative; and Paul Sanford, The Wilderness Society: OAK Leaf Award Recipients 2017.


For his longstanding leadership in efforts to protect outdoor recreation spaces and opportunities and for his efforts to connect young people to the outdoors, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has been awarded the OAK Tree Award from the Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK). The organization also presented awards to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) and Elise Stefanki (R-NY) and to Paul Sanford of The Wilderness Society, among others.

Before entering public office, Senator Heinrich was the Executive Director of Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions, an Albuquerque-based organization that provides wilderness education experiences to New Mexico kids. As a Senator, he was instrumental in the establishing the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, which provides young people from Albuquerque with nature opportunities. This past summer, he introduced the Every Kid Outdoors Act, legislation that would make permanent the Every Kid in a Park free national park pass program for fourth-graders and their families.

“Our national parks and public lands are outdoor classrooms with endless opportunities to learn and make memories,” Senator Heinrich said. “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.

Other award winners:

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was recognized for leadership in supporting career pathway programs for youth and veterans in conservation, and advancement of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act.

Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) were recognized for leadership in connecting children and youth with our parks and public lands, and advancement of the Every Kid Outdoors Act.

Paul Sanford, OAK vice chair and national director of recreation policy at The Wilderness Society, was also awarded for leadership in advancing OAK’s advocacy efforts and for building strong federal partnerships for OAK in service of getting more kids outdoors on public lands and waters.

Upon receiving the award, Sanford said, “The Wilderness Society is honored to be recognized by the members of OAK for our contributions to the work of the Alliance. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with so many visionary leaders in building a movement to get more kids outside.”

More details about all of the 2017 OAK award recipients are on the OAK website.

Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK) ​is​ ​a​ ​national​ ​strategic​ ​partnership​ ​of​ ​nearly​ ​100​ ​organizations​, including The Wilderness Society, from​ ​diverse​ ​sectors​ ​with​ ​a​ ​common interest​ ​in​ ​connecting​ ​children,​ ​youth, ​and​ ​families​ ​with​ ​the​ ​outdoors.​ ​OAK’s​ ​members​ ​are​ ​brought​ ​together​ ​by the​ ​belief​ ​that​ ​the​ ​wellness​ ​of​ ​current​ ​and​ ​future​ ​generations,​ ​the​ ​health​ ​of​ ​our​ ​planet​ ​and​ ​communities, ​and​ ​the economy​ ​of​ ​the​ ​future​ ​depend​ ​on​ ​humans​ ​having​ ​a​ ​personal,​ ​direct​ ​and​ ​life-long​ ​relationship​ ​with​ ​nature​ ​and the​ ​outdoors.​ ​