My entire life I have worked and recreated in Wyoming, and my long-held value and appreciation for our wildlife and wild places has grown exponentially. Through my career with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, I’ve had the good fortune to see the sun rise over dozens of lakes and streams, listen to sandhill cranes speak in their special way on Thorofare Creek and watch bighorn sheep crash together as they compete for breeding primacy. During these, and many other incredible outdoor experiences, I pondered the question – how can we ensure we have Wyoming’s incredible resources long into the future?
During a backcountry horse trip with my son a few years ago, the answer came to me: it’s through our youth. For years I witnessed my son’s development and appreciation for the outdoors. I thought of my daughters and their incredible experiences growing up as a game warden’s children. I reflected on the inspired and excited look on my childrens’ faces when we saw a female bear run her cubs up a dead tree for a nap. We watched from a perch at one of our favorite remote fishing spots in Wyoming.
I thought about my own experiences as a child, too. I remembered the brisk October morning when my father and his good friend introduced me to big game hunting. Like it was yesterday, I recalled the first interaction I had with a Wyoming game warden on that hunting trip. That experience made me decide I wanted to be a warden, too.
I’m not sure how my respect and value for wildlife would be different if my father and his friend hadn’t taken the time to help me experience the outdoors. But I know it made an impact on me large enough that I’ve devoted my career to conserving wildlife and serving the people of Wyoming.
Now I ask again, what can we all do to ensure the future health and viability of wildlife and their habitats? I assert the answer lies in how we inspire youth to experience the outdoors. The most important component to the future of our wildlife is having people who want to continue conservation. We are successful today addressing our most pressing challenges because the people of our state value wildlife and are willing to put passion into action. It is critical for those who are old hands in the outdoors to invest time and effort into a kid today.
So my message to the people of our great state and the folks who are charged with managing our wildlife resources is quite simple: “Inspire a kid; it’s for life.” Take youth outdoors this summer and show them why wildlife and our outdoor resources are so valuable to the Cowboy State.
(Brian Nesvik is the director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.)