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WyRED celebrates 20 years

Written by UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Rancher Kelly Guild, sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, was getting ready to answer the question why he was so willing to open up Guild Ranch rangelands near Fort Bridger to youths attending the weeklong Wyoming Resource Education Days (WyRED).

  Barbed wire, old posts and other items many would expect to find in the back of a ranch pickup lie in the bed behind him.

The 30-or-so youths and adults last week were trodding, prodding and poking plant life and soil on the gentle slope up from the dirt road.

“First of all, it’s dealing with youth,” he said, his young dog content and nearby. “Anytime, it doesn’t matter if it’s dealing with WyRED or whatever, I think it’s very important to educate our young people. And second, I think we need to get the best minds we can back into agriculture. If they’re willing to participate in it, I’m sure willing to help them any way I can.”

This was the 20th year of the program and the second time at the Uinta County Youth Camp, where the program was held in its 15th year. The annual program changes location each year.

This year

Youths and adults had climbed into a Lyman Public School bus during morning cool at the high-elevation camp 20 miles or so south of Mountain View to start a day of tours, plant identification and soil profiling.

Guild met them at the igloo-shaped, charcoal kilns by the side of the road that runs through the ranch. Built in 1867, the kilns – only three of the original 40 remain – provided charcoal to the iron smelters in Utah. He regaled the group with family stories of the kilns and of a bead purse, an appreciation gift from Chief Washakie that remains in the family.

Making a connection

Connecting youths to landscapes is important, said Windy Kelley, president of the Wyoming section of the Society of Range Management (SRM), and one of the reasons the organization continues the WyRED program. The society this year co-sponsored the program with the Uinta County Conservation District.

Youths learn relationships between soils and vegetation whether they want to become a wildlife manager, a rancher, farmer or veterinarian, said Kelley, also a University of Wyoming Extension educator. Even if they don’t want to work in natural or animal sciences, the knowledge gives them a good understanding of taking care of the land.

Coming to Uinta County

WyRED drew youths from as far away as Powell and Sundance.

Taitlyn Bethea will be a senior this fall at Sundance High School. She wants to pursue a career in rangeland management, botany or horticulture.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to expand my knowledge on rangeland plants in Wyoming,” said Bethea, joined by fellow students Bailey Middleton, Haley Merchant and Megan Olson from Sundance. “Not only that but I hoped to meet people from around the state who have the same interest as me.”

Teachers could receive continuing education credits, and elementary and high school teachers mingled with youths while instructors from resource agencies taught plant identification and anatomy, soils, wildlife and resource management and water/hydrology.

Students huddled at separate stations spread over the rangeland at the beginning of the week at the camp, examined plants and dug holes and looked at soil profiles. That afternoon of instruction ended with a plant anatomy and identification test, the students walking from red flag to red flag stuck by specimens.

Adult components

Jim Hickey, a fifth grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary, and his wife Julie, who teaches first grade, were among the students. They participated in all the events the youths did and listened to a panel of speakers brought to the camp one evening.

What panel members said impressed Jim Hickey.

“It helped these students understand all the opportunities there are in agriculture,” he said. “They may never have the opportunity to own a farm or ranch, but if they have an interest in agriculture, there are many more opportunities for them.”

While there is little leeway in school curriculum, he may be able to work what he learned during the week into classes, such as in science.

“At fifth grade, they start looking at careers and what to do,” he said. “I’ll have a better knowledge of the opportunities available to them and direct them.”

This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.