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"Dear Mr. President..." - Kids Call for Environmental Protections

September 19, 2011

DENVER - Kids from across Colorado are asking President Obama to help save public lands in the state. The letters are being gathered by Denver-based Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) and the Hispanic Access Foundation.

One of the letter-writers is Nya Wallace, a sophomore at Overland High School in Aurora. She's also a participant in ELK - and has gone on trips with the organization to national parks and monuments, such as the Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge outside of Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park.

"I just don't want to see people rob themselves of something that belongs to them. Because this world belongs to all of us, and it's up to us to want to explore it."

The letters concentrate on potential cuts to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. They ask the President and Interior Department to oppose a Congressional proposal to divert most of the money for that Fund to other programs. Supporters of the diversion say the money could be better used for programs which directly create jobs. On the other hand, supporters of the Fund say it is part of an outdoor recreation industry which contributes $730 billion annually to the national economy, and provides 6.5 million jobs.

Kim Weis, education coordinator with ELK, says the Land and Water Conservation Fund is giving the city kids in her group access to the region's natural resources.

"The access and the awareness: When we told them that we had a wildlife refuge here in Denver, Colorado, none of them even knew and were so excited, and then they talked about bringing back their families."

The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses fees paid for offshore drilling by oil and gas companies to fund both national parks and local green spaces.

ELK and the Hispanic Access Foundation have already shared the letters with Interior Department. They plan to present the letters to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar later this month.

For information on the cuts, see www.americantrails.org or www.lwcfcoalition.org

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO