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Yosemite Natonal Park, February 22, 2011 – To cultivate thousands of future environmental stewards, young people will learn about wildlife, experience their first wilderness overnight trip, or become accomplished in trail repair by participating in one of 11 Youth in Yosemite programs to be funded with $1.3 million by Yosemite Conservancy.

“Yosemite is nature’s classroom. Connecting youth of all ages with nature and the park transforms lives,” said Mike Tollefson, Yosemite Conservancy president. “Hands-on experience opens up new life choices.” The Conservancy is seeking contributions to fund Youth in Yosemite projects in 2011 that include a range of education, leadership and career development opportunities.

“Without structured programs, many young people would never experience the wilderness, or learn about the parks’ cultural and natural history, or the importance of environmental conservation,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “Youth programs create excitement about conservation that will inspire the next generation of park stewards and leaders.”

Liliana, 16, from Dos Palos, Calif., participated in the Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC), a 40-day summer immersion program that uses the wilderness experience to improve academic, literacy and other skills. An excerpt from a poem she wrote during ARC called “I Am the Merced River,” shows how the program inspired her: I am the Merced River/Easy going and courageous/Always looking forward/Never looking back/Pushing myself to my potential/Flowing gracefully to my next journey….

Among the Youth in Yosemite projects are Junior Ranger programs, which last year taught more than 27,000 children ages 7-13 about nature during visits to the park. The Yosemite Leadership Program partners with National Park Service employees and University of California, Merced students to teach stewardship and leadership skills during academic year programs and summer internships. The WildLink Program gives high school students their first chance to spend time in Yosemite’s wilderness during a week-long expedition in the park. Still other programs combine the best in youth development with park preservation, such as restoring trails, museum archiving or wilderness areas working alongside of National Park Service staff.

Donations to Youth in Yosemite programs can be made at

About Yosemite Conservancy
Yosemite Conservancy is the only philanthropic organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and preservation of Yosemite National Park and enhancement of the visitor experience. The Conservancy works to restore trails, protect wildlife through scientific research and habitat restoration, and offers outdoor programs that provide visitors with unique ways to connect with the park. It has funded over 300 projects through $60 million in grants in areas including trail and habitat restoration, wildlife protection, education, volunteering, and the production of award winning books and DVDs. Learn more at or call 1-800-469-7275.

Peter Bartelme, Yosemite Conservancy, 415-664-1503,
Jennifer Miller, Yosemite Conservancy, 415-434-1782,
Scott Gediman, Media and External Relations, National Park Service, 209-372-0248,