AMES, Iowa - Nineteen youth from five teams participated in the State Wildlife Habitat Education Program Competition on Saturday, May 21, at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge east of Des Moines. 4-H members tested their wildlife knowledge in a friendly competition, working in teams of three to four. This year’s competition focused on the tallgrass prairie and urban ecoregions and species.
The Poweshiek Prowlers Team 1 took first place in the WHEP Team Competition. The Franklin Foxes Team B placed second and Franklin County Team A placed third. For the individual Wildlife Challenge, Natalie Dohlman from Franklin County placed first, William Schalmo from Poweshiek County placed second and Eva Dohlman from Franklin County placed third.
“I have enjoyed helping with WHEP because I am learning right along with the 4-H members,” said Jackie Dohlman, Franklin County 4-H youth coordinator. “We prepared for the state competition by playing the sounds of the birds and quizzing ourselves. I now find myself listening and looking for the birds that I recognize by their songs when I’m outside!”
After the competition, the students learned about work to preserve healthy genetic populations of the bison at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. The students also visited the refuge seed lab and greenhouse to learn about efforts to reconstruct the prairie and support pollinators through the work of dedicated staff and volunteers.
Many youth who participated said their favorite part about the WHEP competition was getting out into the prairie, learning about wildlife and getting to explore the refuge. Youth also reported they enjoyed having fun learning with their friends and that they felt WHEP helped them improve their ability to work with others.
“It is so great to see youth outdoors and excited to be involved in conservation,” said Kaycie Waters, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach education extension specialist. “These youth are learning about the importance of conservation management and how to be stewards of the land. The future of conservation is bright!”
Sponsors for the event included Iowa 4-H Youth Development, The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and The Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.
For more information on the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program or WHEP, please contact your Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county office.
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