National Forest Foundation

Engaging Underserved Youth in Sustainable Recreation

Supported by REI

Mt. Hood, a 11,250’ snow-capped volcano, is a Portland, Oregon icon, which majestically presides over the city and northwestern Oregon region. The mountain and surrounding Mt. Hood National Forest provide the primary source of drinking water to the Portland metropolitan area and is home to threatened and endangered fish and wildlife species. It is also the backyard for over 2.5 million people, and offers a multitude of outdoor recreation activities during all four seasons of the year.

For those fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of these public lands, the Mt. Hood National Forest provides opportunities for experiences ranging from fly-fishing to downhill skiing, from mountaineering to trail running. In fact, in many areas of the forest, trails and recreation facilities are need of TLC due to misuse and/or lack of maintenance capacity.

But for many of the area residents, Mt. Hood and its surrounding forest is a beautiful, but untouchable, part of the skyline. Public transportation to the Forest is limited, so access is challenging for people who don’t own or have access to a vehicle. Without the opportunity to experience it up close and personal, it is difficult for some to understand the importance of stewarding this special place. This is especially troublesome when it comes to youth, who are already at risk for suffering what experts call “nature-deficit disorder” or a lack of exposure to and meaningful connection to nature.

This REI supported program will help us connect underserved youth and community members to their backyard forest through stewardship activities. A crew of diverse youth will be employed to do trail improvements on the Forest, and volunteers will be engaged from the local Latinx community with assistance from Vive Northwest to help us with a reforestation project.

This will provide exposure to career opportunities that support nature, and will help to forge ties to this incredible National Forest. We believe that engaging citizens, especially young people, through programs like this one, is a crucial component to maintaining and support our amazing public lands for future generations.