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Gordon, Barrasso attend Casper event promoting new G&F conservation education in schools

Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder speaks as Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, and Sen. John Barrasso look on during an event announcing a conservation education initiative on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Casper. (Wyoming Game & Fish via Facebook)

CASPER, Wyo. — Sen. John Barrasso and Gov. Mark Gordon, along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder, attended a press conference with Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik in Casper on Monday to announce a new conservation education initiative for Wyoming schools.

According to a social media post by Game and Fish, the initiative features three programs that are intended to give Wyoming students “the opportunity to explore aquatic ecosystems with Trout in the Classroom, learn discipline with National Archery in the Schools Program and gain an understanding of conservation ethic with Hunter Education.”

Trout in the Classroom, or TIC, is a semester-long program that allows teachers and students to raise trout eggs and release them into local waterways, according to Game and Fish.

The National Archery in the Schools Program will teach “international-style target archery,” giving schools the tools and curricula to safely run the program.

The third initiative is the Hunter Education in Schools program, which is described as a legal certification required to hunt with a firearm in Wyoming. It’s a 12- to 18-hour curriculum that includes “hunter responsibility and ethics, wildlife conservation and management, firearm safety, wildlife identification, outdoor safety, Wyoming Game and Fish rules and regulations and more.”

More information on each program can be found here at the Game and Fish website.

“We all had something that got us hooked on the outdoors and the wildlife and the open spaces of our state,” Nesvik said during the event on Monday.

“One of the most important things, at least from my perspective, that we can do to ensure our future generations care like we do — and understand what we really have here and value it to the level we do — is to provide them those kinds of experiences,” he continued, “to provide opportunities for our kids to learn early on about the wildlife resources we have here, about the biology behind them, as well as about all of the components of habitat that are so important for our wildlife here in the state both on private and on on public lands.”

The teacher training will be provided by Game and Fish, according to Nesvik, who said it will be “Wyoming driven, and something that we can make happen quickly.”

He said the initiative is moving through the rules process in Wyoming. They hope the hunter education portion is ready for the start of the next school year, with the other two programs possibly available earlier. The programs will be available to students from fifth grade upward, with most schools focusing on middle school.

Degenfelder talked about her childhood growing up with outdoor activities in the state. “These opportunities, this exposure, they’re not always the norm, even here in Wyoming,” she said. “They should be accessible for all children, no matter what family they come from, their socioeconomic status, what neighborhood or ethnicity, whether they’re boys or girls … and that’s what we’re doing here today.”

During his remarks, Gordon said that outdoor activities benefit children in a number of ways. “Research has shown that if kids are outdoors, they build more synapses, they have more of a sense of ability to solve problems and they really learn a lot about relying on themselves,” he said.