RSPB announces free entry for young people
The RSPB is offering free access to its network of nature reserves for those aged 16-24 in a bid to connect young people with nature.
Europe's largest conservation charity has some 200 nature reserves across the UK. From 6 November, it will be letting young visitors enter the sites for no charge in what it calls a "youth revolution".
The RSPB says it is prepared to take the financial hit to encourage more young people to enjoy its nature reserves (Eleanor Bentall / rspb-images.com).
In a document sent out to volunteers, the charity said: "Our organisational reach within the 16-24-year-old audience is currently very low."
Research has shown that engagement with nature tends to drop in the early teenage years, despite young children often showing a keen interest in wildlife.
Entry fees apply for non-members at the RSPB's 21 most popular sites, these giving the charity around half of their total visitor numbers each year. Fees average around £6 for adults, with the current system allowing free entry for the first child in a family, with others in the party charged half price and those aged under six always free.
However, people aged 16-24 will now be able to enter free of charge. Other youth engagement efforts include inviting the charity's youth council to attend trustee meetings and holding a Youth in Nature summit in February 2024.
Research commissioned by the government has shown that the number of children visiting green spaces has halved in a generation, with transport to natural landscapes found to be one of the main barriers. Other studies have found that young people are now better at identifying Pokémon than wildlife.
Emma Marsh, executive director of digital technology and communications at the RSPB, said: "We really want to remove the barriers they are facing on a daily basis. Taking away entry fees is a first step. It's worth taking the hit."
With no data on the age of visitors to its reserve, the charity does not know how much income it might lose out on.
Marsh added: "We are truly in a nature emergency, but the world isn't operating as if it is, so we need every single generation to be acting with passion, out there, doing stuff to save nature."