Youth conservation education is a fine old tradition in the state of Wisconsin and the nation, with its roots in the Civilian Conservation Corps of Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The Crawford County Land and Water Conservation Department recently held a youth conservation education day at the Sugar Creek Bible Camp.
Originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 22, the event was rescheduled to Tuesday of the following week because of fears of dangerous flooding conditions developing—good thing too!
Students from all of the school districts in the county participated. Prairie du Chien sent 75 fifth grade students, North Crawford sent 41 fifth grade students, Wauzeka-Steuben sent 19 sixth grade students, DeSoto sent 43 seventh grade students, and Seneca sent 14 seventh grade students.
Educational topics offered to participating students were Fisheries, Soil, Forestry/Fire, Fire Control, Birds of Prey, Aquatic Invasives and Contour Strips.
Heidi Keuler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services led the presentation on Fisheries; Shaunna Repking of the National Resource Conservation Service presented on Soils; Matt Bauer and Allan King of the Department of Natural Resources educated students about Forestry/Fire; Ellen Gundrum of the Department of Natural Resources led the section on Fire Control; Merv and Suzanne Broten led a section on Birds of Prey; Emma Antalos of Southwest Badger Resource, Conservation and Development Council led the section on Aquatic Invasives; and Adam Achenbach and Mike Cross led the section on Contour Strips.
What students thought
Sarah Bransky, a fifth grade participant from North Crawford, explained that to her conservation means taking care of the environment and making proper use of natural resources. She sees energy use as the most important conservation issue for the county, and global warming as the most important issue for the world. When she gets back home, Sarah plans to pursue her conservation goals by doing more research, turning off the lights and the water, and sharing what she learned with others.
Elizabeth Stovey, fifth grade participant from North Crawford, felt that the most important conservation issue for the county was people shooting things that they shouldn’t. When she gets back home, Elizabeth plans to look at different fish and share what she learned with others.
McKenzie Moser, seventh grade student from DeSoto, shared that for her conservation means preserving or keeping things the way they were created. She sees the most important conservation issue for the county as the fact that citizens are using the woods to heat their homes and are cutting down trees to make paper. When she gets back home, she plans to work to keep the county’s forests standing and helping the forest to grow.
Brett Rebhahn, seventh grade student from DeSoto, stated that for him conservation means keeping our environment healthy and lasting. He sees the most important conservation issue for the county as being people because “they really don’t care, and they think of themselves first.” When he gets back home, he plans to help by cleaning up roadways, and helping to clean up damage done by people and by flooding.
Kadin Wallin, seventh grade student from Seneca, believes that conservation means helping the Earth. She sees the most important conservation issue for the county as saving endangered species. When she gets back home, she plans to help by washing her boots off when she gets done fishing.
Kane Groom, seventh grade student from Seneca, expressed that for him, conservation means keeping wildlife safe from invasive species and so forth. He sees the county’s most important conservation issues as invasive species and poaching. When he gets back home, he plans to make sure to clean off his waders, boat and boots if they have been in the water.
Tyler Harris, fifth grade student from Prairie du Chien, thinks that conservation means to look at something. He sees the most important conservation issue for the county as being to ensure that the rivers do not get polluted. When he gets back home, he plans to clean off his boots more.
Erin Lenz, fifth grade student from Prairie du Chien, believes that conservation means saving the planet. She sees the most important conservation issue for the county as people throwing away uneaten food and things that are still useable. When she gets back home, she plans to donate old clothes and food.
Emerson Baka, sixth grade student from Wauzeka-Steuben, says that he views conservation as being “necessary.” He sees the most important conservation issues for the county as pollution and erosion. When he gets back home, he plans to recycle more and to pick up more trash.
Lily Mitchell, sixth grade student from Wauzeka-Steuben, thinks that conservation means not littering and caring for the environment. She sees the most important conservation issues for the county and the world as eliminating invasive species. When she gets back home, she plans to wash her boots off after going fishing.
This year’s Crawford County Youth Conservation Day event was made possible through the generosity of the following sponsors:
• People’s State Bank
• Crawford County
• Nichols Water Service
• Prairie Farms
• Shihata’s Orchard
• Piggly Wiggly
The Wisconsin Land+Water works through its Youth Education Committee to develop and maintain programs that educate and inspire Wisconsin’s youth.
Wisconsin’s unique eco-diversity make it the perfect classroom and our many programs work to ensure that future generations continue to care for our beautiful state.
The Youth Education Committee currently focuses on the following programs:
1. Conservation Awareness Poster and Speaking Contest
2. Wisconsin Envirothon
3. Youth Conservation Camps
The Conservation Poster Contest is open to kindergarten through twelfth grade students and posters are evaluated on the following criteria:
The Conservation Speaking Contest aims to promote the conservation of natural resources and the protection or enhancement of environmental quality. Emphasis is placed on the subject as it relates to the locality or to Wisconsin. Students compete at county and area competitions with the winners moving on to the State Competition in March at the Wisconsin Land+Water Conservation Association’s Annual conference. The first place winners in each category share their speeches at the conference luncheon.
Wisconsin’s Annual Envirothon is a combined effort of educators and natural resource professionals to provide hands-on, outdoor coaching and testing areas such as soils, aquatic, forestry, and wildlife.
Camps provide positive educational outdoor experiences, foster an appreciation for nature, and introduce a variety of careers in natural resources and conservation.
Professionals from various agencies present programs on topics like wildlife, habitat, water quality, fisheries, forestry, orienteering, and canoeing. These professionals, as well as adult volunteers, serve as overnight staff and group leaders for the duration of camp.
Campers can make new friends, participate in hands-on activities, practice social & leadership skills, enjoy the outdoors, and just have fun!
In 1961, Wisconsin began an environmental education program that included jobs for youth. Building on the Civilian Conservation Corps tradition, the state established the Youth Conservation Camps program (YCC) to provide summer employment for the state's young people in conservation work projects.
The early YCC was administered cooperatively by two state agencies: the Public Welfare Department ran the camps while the Wisconsin Conservation Department handled the work programs. Within nine months, 200 youth had enrolled.
Two-thirds of the nearly 80,000-worker-days expended in the first five years of the program went into timber stand improvement such as clearing, planting, thinning and release projects, along with parks development.
The Kellett Reorganization Act of 1967 transferred sole responsibility for the YCC to the new Department of Natural Resources. Between 1967 and 1985, nineteen thousand boys and girls participated in the program and accomplished some $15 million worth of work.
"The simple truth of the matter," said DNR's last YCC Chief, Ray Hendrikse, "is that without the assistance of the youth camps, development, restoration and maintenance of state parks, wildlife areas, forests, streams and lakes would be severely reduced. Without them, conservation work would continue to get done, but to a much lesser degree..."
As testament to the success of Wisconsin's YCC program, in the 1970s the federal government established its own youth conservation program, modeled on Wisconsin's program.
The Youth Conservation Corps proved so successful that Congress expanded it and made it a permanent national endeavor on September 3, 1974. The new legislation authorized $60 million annually for the federal Youth Conservation Corps.
State conservation corps
WisCorps, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) conservation corps that provides a valuable service to local communities and the environment by engaging youth and young adults in direct conservation projects on public lands across the state of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest.
Teams of 4-5 Corps Members are led by an experience adult Crew Leader who is both a work supervisor and mentor to the crew. Together, the crews complete projects such as: new trail construction, trail restoration, bridge construction, stream bank stabilization, reforestation, and invasive species management.
Through these “hands-on” projects, Corps Members gain valuable life and employment skills that will help them to become engaged and active members of their communities, as well as future leaders in the Wisconsin workforce!
For more information on WisCorps, go to: https://wiscorps.org/ .
What is YCC?
The United States Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences on national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. YCC programs are generally 8 to 10 weeks and members are paid the minimum wage for a 40-hour work week. Most YCC opportunities are non-residential programs which provide paid daytime work activities with members who commute to the Federal unit daily.
Who is eligible?
Youth, 15 through 18 years of age, who are permanent residents of the United States, are eligible for employment without regard to social, economic, racial, or ethnic backgrounds. Youth with physical or other challenges who can effectively participate in most YCC activities are eligible. Youth must have no history of serious criminal or other antisocial behavior that might endanger their safety or that of others; have or be able to obtain a work permit as required under the laws of their State; have a Social Security number or have made application of one.
What would I do?
YCC members work in a healthful outdoor setting on a variety of projects including building trails, maintaining fences, cleaning up campgrounds, improving wildlife habitat, environmental education planning and teaching, stream restoration, historic building preservation, and more! You'll also participate in educational field trips where chances are you'll see wildlife or history before your eyes, hike and stand on a mountaintop, or gaze at an ancient ruin.
For more information
Looking for a YCC program near you? Check out our list of opportunities from our map here or find a federal facility near you and inquire if they have a YCC program or other opportunities: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/youthprograms/ycc.htm .