SALT LAKE CITY — Youths in the West are more likely than their counterparts in the rest of the country to regularly spend time in the outdoors — and are less deterred by such things as bugs, the heat or cold, according a recent poll.
Commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, the poll did find that overall, today's children aren't getting out much, with 88 percent of American youths spending time online every day and 69 percent who say they play video games or watch TV on a daily basis. In contrast, just 11 percent of America's youths reported getting outside regularly.
"This research is a wake-up call for parents, leaders and the conservation community," said Mark Tercek, Nature Conservancy president and its chief executive officer.
The poll, captured in the report, "Connecting America's Youth to Nature," tapped opinions of 602 American young people between the ages of 13 and 18 through online interviews conducted earlier this summer. It was funded by The Toyota USA Foundation and The Foundation for Youth Investment.
Findings in the poll also underscore that the more time America's young people spend in the outdoors, the greater their commitment to protect the environment.
As an example, 66 percent of those surveyed said they have had "a personal experience in nature," and it made them appreciate it more. That same group was twice as likely as others in the survey to say they preferred spending time outdoors and were significantly more likely to express concern about water pollution, air pollution, global warming and the condition of the environment, according to the report.
The poll did find that the majority of America's youths — 73 percent — are unhappy with the condition of the environment, blame previous generations for its problems and believe they will be left to clean it up. That population transcends any geographical boundaries.
"It was disconcerting there were these worries," said the Utah state director of The Nature Conservancy, Dave Livermore, "but they reinforce the premise that we should leave this world better than we found it; that the environment should not be a political issue because we breathe the same air, drink the same water."
In Utah, Livermore said the poll's findings bolster new outreach programs started by the organization and reinforce commitments to traditions began several years ago.
The Nature Conservancy has a new Great Salt Lake "patch program" for local Boy and Girl Scouts designed to help young participants earn as many patches as possible by completing a series of wetlands/conservation related activies. And each year, more than 1,500 fourth-graders visit the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve through the conservancy's Wings & Water program.
Livermore also praised the Utah Legislature for its efforts earlier this year when it passed a concurrent resolution to encourage children to get outdoors more. Dubbed the "No Child Left Inside" bill, the measure acknowledged nature's influence on the healthy development of children.
"These children are the future leaders of our state," Livermore said, "and it is so important that they understand and value unique lands and waters that sustain our communities and our quality of life."