In previous columns I talked about informing the general public about the importance of managing our resources wisely, and the role livestock grazing can play in achieving this goal. One aspect of this process is to introduce teenage youth to resource management in a group camp setting. The goal is combine fun with learning to encourage these individuals to learn about the various aspects of resource management.
In 2008 a group of range and resource professionals (from the Cardston County, County of Warner, County of Forty Mile, Cypress County, and SRD (Public Lands division), with the help of a number of sponsors and local government support, combined their collective talents to create the Youth Range Daze program. The goal of this program is take rural and urban teenage youth and some adult leaders to sites representing the moist mixed grass prairie, fescue prairie, and dry mixed grass prairie in southern Alberta, and to introduce them to sustainable resource management. The Youth Range Daze program event is held annually in mid-July and over the past three years has been held in different locations in Cypress County, Cardston County and the County of Warner. This program was initiated in 2008 with the camp being held at Writing on Stone Provincial Park, southeast of Milk River. In 2009 the venue was moved to the Police Outpost Provincial Park, south of Cardston. The program was held in the Cypress Hills Provincial Park (southeast of Medicine Hat) in 2010.
This three-day event combines fun with learning about various aspects of resource management. When this event was created, the organizers had a number of important objectives for each of the participants. The primary objective was to make the event enjoyable for all concerned. Some of the skills that it was hoped each participant would obtain included an understanding of rangeland and riparian health, identification of wildlife, an understanding of how wildlife interact with their soundings and agriculture and finally to foster an appreciation for the outdoors and the environment. To achieve these goals the organizers invite speakers to present topics such as range management, riparian management, plant anatomy, plant identification, soils classification, geology, climate, and topography associated with the area the group is visiting. In addition to the presentations the teenagers are given challenging exercises to complete.
One of the challenges presented to each of the students is the completion of a specially designed workbook. The primary purpose of this workbook is to give the student an outline of the weekly activities and provide additional reference material that covers the topics discussed by the speakers. However the workbook is designed to challenge each of the students by asking questions about the topics discussed during the three-day event. As an incentive, prizes are presented to everyone completing their workbook. However, the student judged the best “Range Hand” is given a silver buckle donated by the International Mountain Section of the Society for Range Management. In 2009 the organizing committee decided to introduce a twist to the program. Two prizes are awarded to the student showing the highest aptitude and achievement. In addition to the buckle, the youth was offered an opportunity to give an oral presentation at the annual meeting of The Society for Range Management.
In 2009 Maddy Knodel (from a family ranch in southern Alberta) was the winner of the buckle. She subsequently entered the High School Youth Forum competition at the Society for Range Management’s annual meeting held in Denver, Colorado. The competition featured teenagers from all over the United States. Her presentation was high-calibre enough for her to place fourth overall. In addition, a poster was entered in the poster session. The representative for the group, Tracy Kupchenko from SRD, reported that there was great deal of interest in this program. Some of the comments were made by people who came from as far away as Mexico and northern British Columbia. The 2010 winner of the buckle was Tylene Rafa (also from a ranching family in southern Alberta). She has also entered the speaking competition at the Society for Range Management’s annual meeting held in held in Billings, Montana in February 2011.
Getting young teenagers involved in resource management is an important part of helping the next generation carry on the tradition of stewardship associated with our rural communities. One method of achieving this goal is the creation of a range camp that combines fun with learning. Not only has this type of program helped to generate interest in resource management amongst young adults, it has also given these individuals an opportunity to share their experiences with their peers at an international level.
HylandArmstrongisaretiredrancherfromthe CypressHillsAlberta.Hecanbereachedat [email protected] or4035284798