JACKSON, WY – The Wyoming Wilderness Association will host a celebration for the Youth Ambassadors for Wilderness 2021 cohort at the Murie Ranch in Moose, WY on Friday August 13th from 5:30-7:00 PM. Students will participate in a panel discussion focused on their experience in the program and their perspectives on public wildland management. The event is public and open to those interested in learning more about these students’ hard work and the stories they have to tell. The Youth Ambassadors for Wilderness is a program offered to local Teton area high school youth every summer free of charge. The 10-day curriculum is built on the pillars of leadership, advocacy and stewardship, and is designed to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders. After several day hikes and in-classroom work this past week, students are currently on a four-day backpacking trip into the Gros Ventre Wilderness, with the program culminating in the Murie Ranch event.
The Youth Ambassadors for Wilderness program has taken place for nearly a decade in different capacities across the state. In 2018 when Wyoming Wilderness Association Associate Director, Peggie dePasquale began to oversee the program the curriculum was revised and formalized. Now with place-based education, public land management, and responsible recreation driving the experience, students enter into a rigorous and rewarding learning environment. dePasquale shared “The next generation deserves a chance to become aware and passionate advocates for their public wildlands, our goal is that all students who participate in the Youth Ambassadors for Wilderness program walk away as just that.”
New this year, the Youth Ambassadors is being led by Helen Lewis, the Education and Stewardship Organizer at Wyoming Wilderness Association. This brand new position has allowed the program to become the primary focus of a dedicated staff member for the first time. Lewis has worked hard to make the experience a meaningful one that includes an array of information and perspectives so participants can feel better informed and empowered to impact the change they want to see in their community. In partnership with the Bridger-Teton National Forest and several conservation non-profits in the valley, including Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, the students interact and learn from both conservation advocates, elected officials, and a neutral federal land steward, Wilderness Ranger Louie Shahan.
As the Youth Ambassadors for Wilderness program continues in future years there are high hopes of either bringing the curriculum to other wild landscapes across the state or possibly bringing students from across the state right here to the Tetons. Program leaders are inspired by how the program stands to impact the lives of students it engages. Plans are in the works to increase participation numbers in 2022, while keeping the program both free and accessible to all students who want to be a part.
The Murie Ranch of Teton Science Schools has been the location of the Youth Ambassadors Celebration since 2018, and is the ideal location for the event. The concept of Wilderness and the congressional law that protects it was born on the front porch of the Murie Ranch, and the same location has welcomed and inspired the next generation for decades. Mardy Murie is well known as the grandmother of conservation and Wyoming Wilderness Association is proud to continue her legacy of empowering young people to care for the wilderness that still surrounds us.
The Youth Ambassadors is made possible through the generous funding support from National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and Old Bill’s Fun Run.
About Wyoming Wilderness Association:
Wyoming Wilderness Association is a nonprofit conservation organization with a mission to protect Wyoming public wildlands through education, stewardship and advocacy. The group was founded in 1979 by local wilderness advocates who envisioned a wild future for the state. This small volunteer, grassroots group began educating, training, and organizing Wyoming citizens and successfully secured the passage of the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. As of 2020, WWA represents over 3,000 members and supporters and has offices working on wildlands issues across the state. The future of the Palisades Wilderness Study Area is a priority for the group and they are hopeful for its wild future.