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Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Engages Youth in Grand Canyon to Promote Public Lands

Ryan Heinsius

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is making a push to engage more young people in the protection of public lands. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, part of the initiative involved spending five days on a Colorado River trip with a group of teenagers.

Secretary Jewell floated the river between Pipe Springs and Havasu Creek in the Grand Canyon with 15 high-school students, well out of cell phone and internet range.

One of her main goals is for younger generations to feel connected to nature in a time when technology increasingly dominates their lives. The secretary says such experiences in the natural world can instill an interest in conservation.

“We will not have places like the Grand Canyon adequately funded with the appropriate science and all of that if we don’t have advocates in the future. So there is nothing more important than engaging youth,” Jewell says.

The trip was a collaboration between the Grand Canyon Youth organization and the U.S. Geological Survey. Students did field research studying the distribution of river sediment, and collected data on the canyon’s ecosystem and habitats. The trip was Secretary Jewell’s first time on the Colorado River.

The Interior Department recently launched the Every Kid in a Park campaign. It gives fourth graders free access to all U.S. public lands and waters.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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