Montana Youth Expo Draws Hundreds
by Jon Miller, Bitterroot Chapter Chair
This past May, nearly 400 kids between the ages of 11 and 18 from the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula area participated in the 2nd Annual Youth Conservation and Education Expo at the Teller Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, Montana. More than 30 wildlife and conservation organizations—including RMEF—came together to educate youths on the principles of wildlife, natural resources, land and water conservation, and the importance of hunting, fishing, trapping, shooting sports and habitat protection in maintaining and preserving Montana’s way of life.
The free event opened with outfitter Arnold (Smoke) Elser and Dale Burk, outdoor writer and owner of Stoneydale Press, speaking about the Wilderness Act of 1964, its legacy, and its impact on ours and future generations. Then the kids spread out and visited stations provided by the various participating organizations. Activities included RMEF’s SAFE BB gun shooting range, an archery range, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ poaching trailer and laser shooting range, fly-casting, horse packing, game calling and big game scoring, as well as educational booths and a 25-foot climbing wall.
Once they completed 12 stations, youths were entered into drawings for free summer camp passes aimed at teaching outdoor skills. Forty winners were drawn to participate in youth camps at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch near Dupuyer, the Jack Creek Preserve near Ennis and the Lubrecht State Forest Natural Resource Camp near Lincoln. The organizations participating in the event, along with the National Wild Sheep Foundation and the Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation, sponsored the camp passes. In addition, the participating organizations handed out opportunities for float trips, local big game and waterfowl hunting trips, a Teller Summer Camp trip, hunting, fishing and sporting merchandise, and youth memberships to all youths attending.
Grants from the RMEF, Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation and the Rapp Family Grant Foundation covered much of the event’s supporting costs. More importantly, volunteers from these organizations—including RMEF Bitterroot Chapter members Sue Miller, Mike Byrne, Joseph Byrne and Pete Clarkson—donated their time and efforts to nurture, educate and mentor our next generation of hunter-conservationists.