New Mexico’s Children Have the Right to be Outdoors, Redux

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Last legislative session our leaders almost did the right thing. They very nearly passed a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, which would set the stage for connecting every New Mexico child with the outdoors. There was no real reason this bill didn’t pass, other than lack of time.

Why do we even need a Bill of Rights that gets our children moving outside?

Many of you may remember what it was like when you were a kid – running among the sage and cactus, or hiking near an arroyo. You may have played hide-and-seek using pine trees and boulders as cover. You ran and played until the street lights came on. Those treasured outdoors experiences are just not the norm for many of New Mexico’s children.

Increased classtime hours and more time in front of a screen means that fewer children get outdoors to connect with the state’s natural heritage.

The statistics have not changed in the last year. One third of New Mexico’s children are overweight, and diabetes rates are rising. Children spend less time outside than ever before – 50 percent less time than 20 years ago. On average, children are in front of a screen for nearly eight hours a day. That’s a full-time job.

This legislative session, Senator Cynthia Nava from Las Cruces and Representative Mimi Stewart from Albuquerque will each introduce a Memorial for a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. The Memorials encourage state agencies, including the State Land Office and state parks, to advertise and promote programs that connect children with the outdoors and get them moving. Just as it was last year, this memorial does not have a fiscal impact.

An exciting development for the memorial this year is that Wild Friends, an advocacy group that takes young people to the Capitol, will take this up as its legislation issue.
We do need volunteers to help shepherd these young leaders through the halls of the Capitol.
If you are interested in helping out, please contact Kristina.ortez@sierraclub.org.

CHILDRENS OUTDOOR BILL OF RIGHTS
A. play outside and explore freely;
B. watch wildlife in the outdoors;
C. wade in a river, creek, lake or pond;
D. catch a fish and hunt for food;
E. camp out under the stars;
F. plant a seed and visit farms and ranches;
G. travel a trail;
H. explore public parks, open spaces, nature centers and wildlife sanctuaries;
I. actively care for land, water and wildlife;
J. dig in the dirt and learn about the world from the ground up; and
K. use their imaginations to draw, dance, sing and play outdoors.