WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bending to public outcry, including a strong stance by Next 100 Coalition members, the Department of the Interior is expected to renew the “Every Kid in a Park” program that helps ensure equitable access to U.S. public lands for fourth graders and their families.

Begun by the Obama Administration in 2015, “Every Kid in a Park” has offered on its website a free pass that provides free access for fourth graders and up to three accompanying adults (or loaded non-commercial vehicle) to more than 2,000 federally managed sites, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries.

It had been widely reported this week that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke intended to cancel “Every Kid in a Park.” In March, Zinke told a Congressional committee that free or reduced admission programs contributed to the national parks’ $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. As part of the response to the reports, Next 100 Coalition members joined with other outdoor and conservation organizations in a statement urging continued funding for the program and pointing out that its cancelation “will disproportionately affect underrepresented communities, reducing equal access to these places and impacting the health, well-being and growth of future stewards of our protected lands.”

“Every child deserves to reap the cultural and health benefits of our public lands, and to see these lands as their inheritance — for now and into the future,” the statement said. “We have a moral obligation to ensure that every child – including children from underrepresented communities and their families – have the opportunity to experience and learn from these special places. Access to America’s parks cannot and should not be the privilege of the few.”

The 27 diverse organizations that signed onto the statement included (Next 100 members are hyperlinked):

American Rivers
Big City Mountaineers
Brown Environmentalist
Center for Western Priorities
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Conservation Lands Foundation
Continental Trail Divide Coalition
Defenders of Wildlife
Diverse Environmental Leaders
Endangered Species Coalition
Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK)
Friends of the Earth US
Green For All
Hispanic Federation
Joy Trip Project
Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
Latino Outdoors
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
The Avarna Group
The Praxis Project
The Trail Posse
The Wilderness Society
Vet Voice Foundation
Voces Verde
Youth Outside