The Shoshone National Forest got some sprucing up last month, courtesy of a group of young volunteers.
At their annual Youth Service Retreat, Wyoming Congressional Award Medalists helped with several projects on the Shoshone while learning about the forest and enjoying the Sunlight/Crandall area.
The Congressional Award honors young Americans who set and achieve challenging personal goals, with volunteer public service being one of four program components.
From June 28-30, the 52 Wyoming youths checked on whitebark pine cone development, helped monitor tree growth in an area the Forest Service is rejuvenating, replaced some buck and rail fence around the historic Sunlight Ranger Station, set up some “No Firewood Cutting” signs along the boundary of a timber sale and installed a new gate on a closed road near the Swamp Lake Special Interest Area and K-Z Guest Ranch.
As the youths prepared to dig into some dinner on the night of June 29, Shoshone Forester Amy Haas offered the group a big thank you for their work.
“These were projects that needed to get done, and having all these hands helping out — and learning something about the Forest Service along the way — is really important to us,” Haas said.
The project “helped out all of our disciplines,” she said, “the timber folks, the recreation folks, the wildlife folks and all those. We only do this together when we work together.”
Before eating, the young people each shared something they’d learned that day. It was a long list.
Those who worked on the buck and rail fence were taught that wood lasts longer when it’s been stripped of its bark — and they learned along the way that “taking bark off trees is not as easy as you think” and a log is easier to strip when it has fewer knots, a couple of participants explained.
Those who were involved with surveying the trees learned how to measure the vegetation — and how to distinguish between similar-looking spruce and fir trees and male and female cones.
Natalie Dillivan of Powell was one of those who helped with identifying and measuring the tree growth; Dillivan said it was “good, strong work,” but that she also enjoyed it.
That was a common theme.
“Surprisingly, I liked learning about the trees,” laughed Raelynn Ramsey, another Powell attendee who worked on the tree project.
Powell was well-represented among those at the retreat: Gabri Lundberg helped peel and paint the logs for the fence while Kayla Kolpitcke assisted with the installation of the new gate.
As members of the Wyoming Congressional Award, the youths put in hundreds of hours to reach one of three award levels: bronze, silver and gold. Beyond volunteer public service, participants also put time into personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration.
“The service retreat is intended to help students come together and meet participants from all across the state as well as help them earn hours towards their awards and improve Wyoming communities/areas,” explained Trista Ostrom, executive director of the Wyoming Congressional Award Council and a former Powell resident. “They are all working towards a level of the award.”
At last month’s retreat, Ostrom stressed the importance of partnering with different agencies and organizations.
The youths shared their dinner that night with the Shoshone Back Country Horsemen, a volunteer group that helps clear trails within the forest.
Rick Adair, president of the group, tipped his hat to the young volunteers, saying there’s not many people doing that kind of volunteer work these days.
“Keep doing it,” Adair urged.