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Report from the Field: Haubies Attend Wyoming Outdoor Council’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and Workshops

Report from the Field: Haubies Attend Wyoming Outdoor Council’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and WorkshopsI looked over at Sam, his eyes wide with disbelief and excitement, “Did that really just happen?” He said under his breath, as we weaved our way...

I looked over at Sam, his eyes wide with disbelief and excitement, “Did that really just happen?” He said under his breath, as we weaved our way through the crowd, stepping out into a chilly September evening. We sat in silence for a few moments, digesting the conversation we just had with Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Harold Bergman, past director of the Ruckelshaus Institute. Ironically the Patagonia quilted synchilla I was wearing did not keep the goose bumps from raising on my skin.

We had traveled to Lander, Wyoming, for the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s (WOC) 50th Anniversary Celebration and Citizen Advocacy Summit to learn about effective advocacy, to gain citizen engagement resources, and to connect with others who are passionate about conservation. I had no idea it would lead to conversations with powerful inspiring individuals who have had a profound impact on the way we think about and interact with the outward environment.

I had first heard about the WOC event through social media, and I approached Sam Richins, a fellow Haub School student, to attend the event with me. We arrived in Lander Friday evening, greeted by the funky tunes of The Jalan Crossland Band. The crowd was movin’ and groovin’ and we joined in, singing at the top of our lungs late into the evening. The following day we had a full agenda of workshops, from policy making to drawing the elements of the natural world, and everything in between.

We attended workshops focused on policy and agency engagement. Throughout the day, we heard from WOC board members and staff, Wyoming Game and Fish directors, National Forest rangers, Department of Environmental Quality employees, State Legislators, BLM officers, and grassroots affiliates. Built into these workshops were panel discussions, where Sam and I asked questions and expressed concerns we had with how Wyoming communicates on current issues. It was clear from all sides of the table that a human touch approach is preferred and encouraged; the more personal and specific a comment, letter, or email, the better. Both Sam and I were alarmed to realize we had never written personal letters or emails, but have signed numerous petitions instead. Senator Cale Case, R-Fremont County, and Representative Eric Barlow, R-Campbell/Converse Counties, explained that many of online petitions circulated on social media don’t make it to the legislators, and if they do, the documents seem dehumanized to the individuals involved in making the policy.

Fueled with empowerment from the panelists, Sam and I approached Harold Bergman, a gentleman with a plethora of conservation awards and a legacy at the Haub School. We spoke with Harold about young advocates in today’s world and before we knew it, he was introducing us to environmental icon Yvon Chouinard. Trying not to stumble over our words, Sam and I spoke to Yvon about our affiliation with the Haub School and why we were attending the summit, until we were directed to be seated for dinner and keynote speaker Gina McCarthy, Environment Protection Agency Administrator under President Obama. McCarthy spoke about involving the younger generation, encouraging others to connect to the natural world, and staying hopeful in today’s political climate. When we talked with her after her address, she looked us in the eyes and re-iterated that change starts with us—what a powerful moment that was. With the end of the evening coming to a close, we raised our glasses in a toast to the late Tom Bell, founder of WOC and High Country News.

Looking forward, both Sam and I plan to continue the conversation we started with WOC director, Gary Wilmot, about implementing a student representative on the WOC board and/or creating a student advisory board.

We want to extend our sincerest gratitude to the Haub School for making this opportunity possible and continuing to foster young students as they transition from the classroom to professional pursuits.

 

Written by undergraduate student Emily Reed, who is studying Environment and Natural Resource along with English at the University of Wyoming. Sam Richins is majoring in Environmental Systems Science with minors in Environment and Natural Resources, Sustainability, and Outdoor Leadership.


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