Students experience natural resources in outlaw range
Natural resource management and Old West outlaws united in a memorable five-day adventure for a group of Wyoming youth. While there weren’t any shootouts or train robberies, the Wyoming Resource Education Days (WyRED) didn’t lack excitement at the Willow Creek Ranch at the Hole-in-the-Wall in southern Johnson County.
WyRED exposed a group of 35 students to hands-on learning and experiences in areas ranging from soils, plants, rangeland, wildlife and watershed management, WyRED chairman Ben Bonella says. Experts and specialists in natural resource areas were also on hand to present information and guide students in the field.
“The goal of WyRED is to teach students the importance of natural resources in Wyoming,” Bonella says. “We want them to understand how to manage the natural resources to preserve them for future generations.”
A diverse group of students trekked to the stomping grounds of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Some already had natural resource management experience and some had never stepped foot on a ranch, Powder River Conservation District Manager Anita Bartlett says noting the information is easy to learn.
“We had a student who didn’t know anything at the start and they got second on the plant quiz Sunday night,” Bartlett says.
Casper FFA students Melissa Haygood, Sage Petersen and Caitlin Carpenter all agree that WyRED is valuable. This was the first year for all three girls and they say they learned a lot, had fun and met new people.
“I’m expanding my horizons,” Petersen says. “We’re learning a lot of plants and it’s a really good experience.”
WyRED, according to the FFA members, gave them knowledge t hey can use in their everyday lives.
“This is helping with my career choices,” Haygood says. “I want to go into ranching and I hope I get to come back next year.”
Carpenter agreed saying, “My CDE [Career Development Event] is environment and natural resources and this is a really unique opportunity to help me in that. I’m coming back as much as I can.”
The WyRED attendees strayed from soils and plants long enough to encounter the Willow Creek Ranch’s history. Barry Crago, cattle operation manager, took the group on a historic tour showing them a treasure-trove of history including teepee rings, a stagecoach trail and the Hole-in-the-Wall.
The work at WyRED culminated with the State Range Judging Competition. Bartlett says by the end of camp, the attendees have the knowledge they need to succeed in the competition. The state contest is open to anyone and Bartlett says the competition attracts anyone from five-year-olds to professionals.
“The competition is set up for the way we do business with ranchers,” State Range Management Specialist Everet Bainter says. “We ask, what kinds of plants are out there and what good they are and then we go from there.”
Next year’s WyRED will take place in Greybull. Bonella says it is beneficial to have the camp in a different place each year in order to expose students to the drastic differences in rangeland and resources in the state. But, no matter where WyRED takes place, it can leave a lasting impression.
“Life is never the same after you leave WyRED,” Bonella says.
Liz LeSatz is the Summer 2008 intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.