What do you say about Toyota giving an $800,000 check -- along with the keys to five rigs -- to the Yellowstone Park Foundation? Thank-you-very-much, or thanks, but no thanks?
Was this corporate green-washing at its worst, or a wonderful gift that will benefit Yellowstone National Park and children who know too little about the natural world?
Against the backdrop of the Bush administration's Centennial Initiative, the donation is pretty impressive. After all, the car maker obviously doesn't care if its dollars will be matched by the government. Cynics, though, might accuse Toyota of simply trying to grab some green ink.
And yet ... at a time when dollars for park programs are so scarce, shouldn't this sort of donation be welcomed and even encouraged? Or, does it simply provide evidence that Congress doesn't need to fully fund the parks, that corporate partners can be found -- at least for the jewels of the National Park System -- to fill in the gaps?
If you've followed the Yellowstone Park Foundation over the years, you know its been pretty adept at taking corporate dollars and inserting them into useful programs at Yellowstone that gain recognition not for who donated the money, but for what was accomplished.
Toyota's donations, made today in Yellowstone, were packaged as being given in support of "instilling a preservation ethic and promoting environmental stewardship among visitors." The monetary portion is intended to be used by the Yellowstone Park Foundation to bolster curriculum and improve accessibility of its educational programs to youth.
“Toyota and Yellowstone National Park both share a vision in developing future environmental stewards from the onset to encourage long-lasting conservation values,” said Dian Ogilvie, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America. “We are proud to work with Yellowstone National Park and contribute to educational initiatives which will expand the park’s reach to even more communities and groups who have not yet experienced the beauty of Yellowstone.”
The "No Child Left Inside" initiative offers a range of educational programs that are intended to motivate students to take responsibility for their everyday actions to ensure a more sustainable society; encourage creative problem solving and critical-thinking skills through hands-on experimentation; and motivate students to educate others by sharing their preservation values.
Toyota's financial support goes towards programs such as "ParKids," which are summer educational workshops focused on environmental stewardship; Junior Ranger and Young Scientist programs that collectively reach more than 22,000 children annually; the Native American Cross-Cultural Exchange program, which is tailored to provide a residential camp experience for fostering relationships between Yellowstone Park and tribal youth; and the Yellowstone ESCAPE (Enhancing School Curricula with a Park Experience) program that incorporates both an Educational Day Use Program for school groups and three Teacher Training Workshops per year.
Present at today's press conference was Chris Lehnertz, the park's deputy superintendent, who said it is "essential" that today's youth come to appreciate the natural world "for the benefit of their personal development and well-being.”
“We focus on teaching students about Yellowstone’s natural and cultural resources to promote stewardship of open space and ecosystems worldwide, and are grateful for Toyota’s contribution in helping us develop future environmental leaders,” the deputy said.
Toyota also is contributing dollars and vehicles to help benefit Everglades National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yosemite National Park and the National Park Foundation.