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Almost half of Wyoming is public lands. Wyoming Wilderness Association believes giving youth the opportunity to begin the development of an informed voice and an understanding of public land values through outdoor activity is a critical step in the protection of these landscapes for future generations.

Recognizing this and also being passionate about providing low-cost outdoor recreation opportunities and connecting our high school youth to their mountainous backyard, WWA teamed up with three teachers to launch outdoor clubs at three Sheridan County high schools.

The clubs incorporate three main components: environmental education, stewardship work and recreation.

Volunteer teachers share their expertise on subjects connected with the outdoor activity, such as the geology of the rock they are about to climb.

Stewardship projects are coordinated, such as helping set the path for the community’s moonlight cross-country ski. Along the way students participate in the outdoor pursuits, such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking, fly-fishing, cross-country and alpine skiing. For many of them, this is the first time participating in these different pursuits.

Collaborating with a variety of local outdoor organizations, students take an active part in recognizing the characteristics and values of our backyard mountains and the importance behind taking care of them for future generations.

Additionally, involvement in the clubs gives students a chance to increase leadership and communication abilities, boost self-confidence in an outdoor activity and as a bonus, offer a respite from the constant presence of technology. We believe participation is a unique experience that builds needed skills to help shape youth the rest of their lives. These clubs are currently active, navigating all COVID-19 precautions, adventuring and learning how to recreate in a responsible way.

WWA is so thankful for the foundations who have helped us launch these outdoor clubs off the ground over the past three years. Wyoming Community Foundation Sheridan-Johnson County Local board, Cross Charitable Foundation and the Tucker Foundation, along with various individual donors, have made these experiences for these high school students possible.

Management of our public lands is always under scrutiny. You only have to look over the past few months in the news and you will find a multitude of opinions about the way our public lands are managed, be it about fires, recreation, access, or just the way people have flocked to these places in record numbers.

Getting our local high school students outside adventuring, learning and giving back to our community helps them discover the intrinsic values of these wild landscapes. And when it is their turn to engage in management decision-making, they will have a story to share.

Khale Century Reno is executive director of Wyoming Wilderness Association. 

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