Volunteer organizations from all over the valley are gearing up once again for the annual Youth Conservation and Education Expo at the Teller Refuge near Corvallis. It’s a free event held in May for the valley’s youth ages 6 to 17 years old that is designed to educate them about the great outdoors and the many ways it can be enjoyed, explored, appreciated and preserved.
A testimony to the success of the program was the honor recently bestowed upon four of the program’s newest camp counselors. All four of the new counselors have been beneficiaries of the program over the last several years. Hyme Anderson, Dawson Cameron, Hunter Eden and Taylor Wohlers have attended various Expo events and camps over the last six years and are now stepping up to help other young people get the same kind of foothold in the outdoors that they were able to achieve.
Over the course of several years, the event has experienced tremendous growth. In addition to the event day, at which young people visit fun and educational stations designed to interest and engage them in various outdoor activities ranging from shooting guns and arrows to bird watching, back country horse packing and hiking, rock climbing, fishing and more, by participating in the Expo and visiting the various stations the young people also get a chance to draw a lucky ticket for a scholarship to the growing number of summer camps that are affiliated with the Expo event.
At first scholarships were given out to attend already established summer camps at such places as the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch at Dupuyer, the Jack Creek Preserve Youth Camp in Ennis, Glacier National Park’s Glacier Institute. It wasn’t long, however, before the group of organizers began putting together their own camps. The first was a wilderness camp at the Magruder Ranger Station up the Nez Perce where kids got the chance to learn about the creation and adoption of the Wilderness Act by a couple of old timers who were very much involved at the time, local publisher and conservationist Dale Burk and renowned horse packer and outfitter Smoke Elser. Two new camps were recently added on ranchland owned by Ed Scripps up the West Fork.
The main driver of this constellation of organizations devoted to outdoor education for youth is Tom Powers. Powers had a vision of what could be achieved if every organization in the valley that had anything to do with the outdoors got involved and the community stepped up to help bring that vision to fruition. And the vision just keeps flourishing. Two years ago, a shooting competition at Whittaker Shooting Range in Hamilton was added to the venue. One shooter, twelve-year-old Marcus Klemp, got an exceptionally high score that got everybody’s attention. As a result, he ended up trying out for Junior Olympics and came in 8th place, which qualifies him to enter the Junior Olympics competition in Colorado Springs this year.
According to Powers, the Youth Expo is set to offer a total of 200 scholarships to summer camps this year.
Two people involved in the Expo, Taylor Wohlers and Teller Refuge Manager Karen Zumwalt, have also been selected to participate in the state’s Master Hunter Program. The program was started a couple of years ago. According to one of the first graduates from the program, Matt Ulberg, the program was started as a bridge between rural and urban dwellers in an effort to improve hunter and landowner relations. It is a six-week program with a two-day field course with one day in the classroom and another in the field using GPS and doing some long-range shooting. Ulberg said the program was not focused simply on safety like most hunting programs. Instead, he said, it is a lot about the heritage and tradition of hunting and the ethics involved. They learn a lot about using proper gear and equipment. They also learn a lot about cattle operations and the concerns of landowners. Ulberg said the program has helped bring public hunting back onto properties that had been closed to hunting due to those concerns.
Ulberg said it was not a trophy hunting program, it was more of a game management program and an ambassador of hunting program. The first class produced about 21 Master Hunters. He said the next class already had 90 hunters signed up.
The Youth Conservation and Education Expo 2019 is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 11 this year. It runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is held on the grounds surrounding the Slack Barn at Teller Wildlife Refuge north of Corvallis on the Eastside Highway.