by Rachel Dahl —
The Lahontan Valley Conservation District sponsored two young men from the High Desert Grange to attend Nevada Youth Range Camp at the Smith Creek Ranch this summer. The 230,000 acre ranch is located 50 miles east of Fallon and is a combination of private lands owned by the Hendrix family and public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Taylor Reynolds and Richard Gomez joined their Carson Valley neighbor David Kimball, who was sponsored by the Carson Valley Conservation District, along with 28 other teens from Nevada for the six-day camp to learn about the natural habitat of the Great Basin range.
This is the third year Reynolds attended the camp, a veteran to Gomez and Kimball, both first year students who spend the week learning from conservation district and cooperative extension range educators. “It’s a different curriculum for the third year campers,” said Reynolds. “You go to different transects on the Smith Creek Ranch and do photo-point intersect and monitoring methods to monitor the stream bank stabilization.”
Campers learn about a variety of issues including vegetation, water, wildlife, and different species. Reynolds said they learned that the wild horse population at Smith Creek is close to 900 and by BLM regulations should only be as high as 200.
Gomez spent his time at camp as a first-year doing soil investigation, creek investigation, sagebrush, and juniper/pinion pine investigations. “Each investigation tells a different thing,” he said, “for the soils investigation we dug into a hole to take samples and learn the different types of soil like; sandy, clay, loam.”
Kimball as a first year, said he started straight off learning what types of plants are which, “and after we got done with that we went into the investigations and measured the vegetation there to see how it was different.” He said they also talked about sage grouse and how trees affect them, “we talked about how they should live in areas of less trees because that creates habitat for predators.”
Kimball also talked about the sagebrush investigation, “we went really heavy into invasive plants and if there were to be a wildfire in a certain area cheat grass would over grow everything that was growing there including sagebrush and Indian rice grass, we talked about keeping certain areas free from wildfires.”
Reynolds laughed when he told about their night compass experience, with Gomes and Kimball pitching in to tell parts of the story. Campers were gathered after dark after they had learned how to effectively use a compass, and given instructions that would lead them to a certain spot, using pacing and bearings, but their team got hopelessly lost.
According to the Range Camp video, the idea of range camp is to “take a step back and look at what’s being done well and what could be done better on the private and public lands of the state.” Camp instructors and counselors are trained specialists from the University of Nevada, Reno; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Bureau of Land Management; Forest Service; Nevada Division of Forestry; Nevada Division of Conservation Districts; Nevada Division of Wildlife; and others.
The goal of the camp is for students to gain an appreciation and a realization that things aren’t quite as simple in the world of natural resource management. Leaders say that when campers leave at the end of the week, they tend to see a lot more than when they came, and see the complexities of the issues, considering all the facts and concepts when making rangeland decisions. “A bad decision can have consequences for a long time.”
All three boys came home from camp excited about what they had learned and the possibilities their new knowledge opened up for them in the future. Kimball is interested in becoming a welder and a land surveyor, Gomez enjoyed the exposure to yet another Grange program, and Reynolds intends to go into the natural resource industry.
They were so excited to share what they had learned, including the fact that there are 28 different sagebrush species in Nevada, and they were able to identify four of them at Smith Creek during their trip. “I didn’t know until I went to camp,” said Kimball, “that different sagebrush have different smells if you crush them.” The four at Smith Creek are Great Basin, Wyoming, Mountain, and Low, with Great Basin being the sweetest, and Wyoming which smells bitter and has shorter petals.
“I really hope more kids take advantage of this program,” said Gloria Montero, the leader of the Grange in Fallon. She said there are more groups across the state that provide sponsor/scholarship for campers including Bighorn, Trout Unlimited, and others and hopes to send more campers next year.
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