Butler Outdoor Education Fund

The Butler Conservation Fund sees the education of younger generations as a key element in the long-term protection of natural ecosystems. Even children living in close proximity to the beauties of the natural environment often have little or no direct exposure to it. A sedentary lifestyle in which outdoor play has been supplanted by electronic media and other indoor entertainment has cut young people off from the spiritually and emotionally enriching experiences and learning opportunities provided by the natural world. In addition, the alarming epidemic of childhood obesity can be directly related to the lack of exercise and healthy aerobic activities.

For these reasons, the Butler Outdoor Education Fund (BOEF) was created in 2011 to provide educational and recreational opportunities free of charge for school-age children, fostering and promoting the values of outdoor education and encouraging the responsible use, appreciation, and conservation of the natural environment. BOEF has established outdoor education programs in four of its “legacy geographies”—upstate New York, coastal South Carolina, Maine, and southern Chile. It also previously funded a small outdoor education program on the west coast of Scotland. These programs combine outdoor aerobic activity with lessons in ecology, geology, biology, and history, and in most cases are fully integrated into the curriculum of participating schools. BOEF’s hope is that these lessons and the enjoyment of outdoor recreation will last a lifetime and foster the creation of a new generation of environmental stewardship.

Fundamental to this vision is the creation of lasting links between local communities and the natural world. BOEF’s programs bring direct benefits to local school districts in the form of enriched educational opportunities and improvements in student health, with the active participation of teachers and parents. Meanwhile, a substantial part of the state-of-the-art recreational infrastructure developed for hiking, skiing, mountain-biking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities has been made available to the general public, bringing direct and indirect economic benefits to local communities. READ MORE >

These benefits have been clearly demonstrated by the earliest of these programs to be created by BCF, the Black River Outdoor Education Program (BROEP) in upstate New York. BROEP, which welcomed its first participants in 2008 and has subsequently provided opportunities for more than 100 schools and 72,000 students, provides a template for the programs that have now been launched in other areas. Local school districts, civic institutions, and economic development bodies all attest to the rich contributions BROEP has made to the well-being of their communities.

Whether offered directly by a BCF-created entity, or by an independently contracted outfitter, all BOEF programs are conducted by highly qualified instructors with extensive experience and expert local knowledge. The safety of children participating in the programs is of paramount concern, and all four programs have an impeccable safety record.