A needs assessment performed by Extension in 2001 indicated that the public places very high importance on natural resources education for youth. However, most of Nevada’s youth live in large urban environments, with little exposure to rangelands, forests or agricultural environments, and the products and services rangelands provide. Limited exposure to these environments suggests that Nevada’s youth are increasingly less likely to seek education, careers or experiences in natural resources, particularly on rangelands common in the western U.S. In addition, the number of people with knowledge about rangeland resource issues is declining; yet decision-makers on national law, regulation and policy seek public input toward the management of rangeland resources.
Nevada Youth Range Camp was developed in response to and with input from stakeholders, and has been offered for 58 years, teaching over 1,500 students ages 14-18. In June 2018, 25 campers from eight Nevada counties experienced life in Nevada’s rangeland for a week, staying at the Smith Creek Ranch in central Nevada. They learned map reading; identification and the importance of rangeland plants; evaluation of sagebrush, woodland and stream ecosystems; wildlife habitat; and many other topics related to rangelands. Students also participated in outdoor activities, including hiking, volleyball, conservation project implementation, campfires and photography. From 2011 to 2016, curricula were revamped and published for the Soils, Stream, Pinyon and Juniper, Simulated Coordinated Resource Management, and Land Navigation lessons. In 2017, the Nevada Rangeland and Resources Commission made a video about the camp.
Each year, campers submit a written evaluation that asks them to rate each of the instructional modules and the overall camp experience from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), as well as to answer open-ended questions about what knowledge they gained. In 2018, all 25 students indicated gains in knowledge, and their average rating of the camp experience was 4.64. The average of individual session ratings was 4.5.
Several campers have attended the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources or other universities in the western United States and pursued careers in natural resources management. Some have gone on to hold positions of leadership in natural resources-related agencies or own or manage ranches. Some report that Nevada Youth Range Camp was a life-changing event.
In 2016, Katlyn Uhart, the Nevada Youth Range Camp 2015 runner-up for "Trail Boss" (top camper award based on performance), competed in the High School Youth Forum at the Society for Range Management’s International Conference in Corpus Christi, Texas. She placed first in the competition with an oral presentation on collaborative conservation. Another former Trail Boss winner, Lewis Mendive, now attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources’ Range program, won first place in the collegiate extemporaneous speaking contest at the same conference.