We all know that fear of litigation is one of the formidable barriers for families, schools and other organizations concerned about children and nature. I wrote about this in "Last Child in the Woods," particularly in chapters 1 and 18, and expanded the discussion in the 2008 edition of the book. We need to know much more about this issue. At the National Gathering, we heard about an effort in Florida to apply the Good Samaritan Law to the litigious worries regarding children and nature. Allen Cooper (National Wildlife Federation) and I spoke about this, and Allen said NWF is involved in that, and I'm sure they're doing good work. I mentioned to Allen -- and throw out the idea here -- about the need for a national conference on children, nature and the law. That's a suggestion I made four years ago to Carl Pope when I spoke to the Sierra Club board of directors, and Carl was enthusiastic about it. Out of such a conference might come a white paper or public pamphlet of tips on how to deal with the issue on a personal and organizational basis. The organization Common Good might be helpful in this: (http://commongood.org/). Last year, Common Good hosted an online conference of health officials and others on the obesity question a while back, which I excerpted in my blog. Here's part of what I said in the conference:

"One goal should be a nationwide review of public laws and private rules that restrict play. Also, as Common Good has recommended, we need to establish public risk commissions to examine areas of our lives that have been radically changed by litigation. We should encourage lawyers, insurance agencies and the public to embrace the concept of comparative risk as a legal and social standard. (Yes, there is risk out there, but there are also huge risks to physical and mental health when we raise a generation of children under protective house arrest.) In the new edition of “Last Child in the Woods,” I report a provocative idea suggested by a California environmental lawyer: Create a Leave No Child Inside Legal Defense Fund that would, using pro bono attorneys, help families and organizations fight egregious lawsuits that restrict children’s play and bring media attention to the issues."

Any thoughts on what C&NN's role might be on the issue of children, nature and the law, and who among us might pursue it? And what the issues are? And possible solutions?

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Ashley and I would definitely be interested in finding more about this. This idea lays in the back of our heads, as we invite families out together for our Nature Club for Families - Kids In the Valley, Adventuring! Everytime we speak to a group, we are asked about this. We let everyone know that we are just inviting families out to play, not to ensure their safety. This holds us back from inviting families to certain parks and leading certain hikes. Please continue to pursue this very important topic.
It would be great to find an attorney among the grassroots leaders who could help us think this through and perhaps help take the lead.
Be sure to loop in the attorneys who are well versed in liability law in the outdoors. Check out Reb Gregg's website at: http://www.rebgregg.com/ or Catherine Hansen-Stamp http://www.hansenstampattorney.com/, and I am sure there are others. Although it can be a bit daunting, the wilderness adventure programs (check out the wilderness risk management conference: http://www.nols.edu/wrmc/) have many ideas and solutions to the myriad of risk management/liability issues facing outdoor adventure programs. I am sure we would find allies that would love to help with this cause.
Terrific, Steve. C&NN Connect is a great way to start pooling our knowledge and contacts on this issue. Others?

SteveHhagler said:
Be sure to loop in the attorneys who are well versed in liability law in the outdoors. Check out Reb Gregg's website at: http://www.rebgregg.com/ or Catherine Hansen-Stamp http://www.hansenstampattorney.com/, and I am sure there are others. Although it can be a bit daunting, the wilderness adventure programs (check out the wilderness risk management conference: http://www.nols.edu/wrmc/) have many ideas and solutions to the myriad of risk management/liability issues facing outdoor adventure programs. I am sure we would find allies that would love to help with this cause.
This sounds like a call for a Natural Lawyers Network that could jumpstart a No Child Left Inside Legal Defense Fund. There may not be many lawyers on C&NN CONNECT, but we all know "green," child-advocate lawyers who should sign up. Let's go find 'em.

Richard Louv said:
Terrific, Steve. C&NN Connect is a great way to start pooling our knowledge and contacts on this issue. Others?

SteveHhagler said:
Be sure to loop in the attorneys who are well versed in liability law in the outdoors. Check out Reb Gregg's website at: http://www.rebgregg.com/ or Catherine Hansen-Stamp http://www.hansenstampattorney.com/, and I am sure there are others. Although it can be a bit daunting, the wilderness adventure programs (check out the wilderness risk management conference: http://www.nols.edu/wrmc/) have many ideas and solutions to the myriad of risk management/liability issues facing outdoor adventure programs. I am sure we would find allies that would love to help with this cause.
Natural Lawyers Network. That's either exciting or frightening! (Let's think seriously about something like this.)

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