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For Release: Monday, March 17, 2014

Statewide Forestry Association Honors DEC Teacher Education Program

DEC Trained 16,000 New York Educators to Teach Environmental Concepts in Pre-K-12

The New York Society of American Foresters recently awarded its 2013 Community Service Award to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) New York Project Learning Tree® (NYPLT) steering committee, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. DEC environmental educators Tom Shimalla and Betsy Ukeritis, who both serve as NYPLT co-chairs, accepted the award in recognition of the steering committee's exceptional forestry and environmental-related services and contributions provided to the community.

"For nearly 30 years, Project Learning Tree has provided educators with free workshops and curriculum for teaching environmental concepts at varying grade levels," Commissioner Martens said. "Nurturing an understanding and love of the environment in young people provides a blueprint for the next generation of environmental stewards."

"We are pleased to receive this award," said Paul Adams, NYPLT steering committee chairperson. "The partnership with DEC, under the leadership of environmental educators Tom Shimalla and Betsy Ukeritis, provides New York State educators with a well-tested program that engages students in active learning through fun, hands-on activities tied to classroom studies."

Since 1985, Project Learning Tree facilitators have trained more than 16,000 teachers across the state. The program is sponsored in New York by DEC and the Empire State Forestry Foundation.

"We value our partnership with DEC and the American Forest Foundation," said Eric Carlson, president and CEO of the Empire State Forest Products Association and managing director for the Empire State Forestry Foundation. "We promote the management of New York's forests to meet the resource needs of today and for future generations. Project Learning Tree helps us meet this goal by presenting educators and students with fun, science-based lessons that highlight the economic importance and ecological significance of New York's timber resources."

Project Learning Tree is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary environmental education program for educators and students in Pre-K to grade 12. Administered nationally by the American Forest Foundation (AFF), Project Learning Tree was first used in New York in 1985. The current steering committee was organized in 2011 and includes members of government, non-profit, colleges and the forest industry. Their primary responsibility is to provide guidance and oversight to the Project Learning Tree program and implement the strategic plan.

Project Learning Tree steering committee members are Paul Adams, Stony Kill Foundation; Eric Carlson, Empire State Forest Products Association/Empire State Forestry Foundation; Mary Cosgrove, College of St. Rose; Susan Cox, U.S. Forest Service; Sloane Crawford, DEC; Meghan Dye, Tifft Nature Preserve; Dr. Elizabeth Folta, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Laurel Gailor, Cornell Cooperative Extension; Tiffany Kivlen, LandVest; Pam Musk, New York Audubon; Erin O'Neill, Finch Forest Management and Mary Jeanne Packer, Ghostwriters Communications.

National Project Learning Tree staff selected New York for the 2015 International Coordinator's Conference, June 8-11, 2015 in Saratoga Springs. Over the course of four days, more than 150 NYSPLT coordinators, workshop facilitators and steering committee members from the United States, Japan and Mexico will engage in best professional development methods and latest education trends. The conference will also highlight New York's rich forest history and outdoor recreation opportunities.

For more information on Project Learning Tree please visit DEC's website, call 518-402-8043, email or write to DEC Bureau of Environmental Education, 4th Floor, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-4500.

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