Meet Your Forest: FDRD programs teach stewardship to next generation |

Meet Your Forest: FDRD programs teach stewardship to next generation

by Breeana Laughlin
Courtesy of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District
Courtesy of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District |

Friends of the Dillon Ranger District works to preserve local forests for future generations, so it’s only natural that youths play a big part in our programs. We know that everyone benefits when children and teens understand the importance of taking good care of our forests.

“Being an inclusive organization is critical to our vision of providing a legacy of stewardship for years to come, and offering opportunities that are enjoyable for a range of different ages and backgrounds is a key aspect of inclusiveness,” said Jessica Evett, FDRD’s executive director. “Youth are a part of our community, and they have a great deal to contribute.”

In Summit County, our environment sustains our economy and our way of life by providing world-class opportunities for recreation. Yet not all youths who live in Summit County are provided with opportunities to experience our national forest lands or fully understand the importance of taking good care of them, Evett said.

FDRD fosters environmental awareness by helping children make the connection between healthy forests, healthy communities and their daily lives. Our work gives local youths the opportunity to exercise outdoors and take part in fun and rewarding group activities, and gives them the chance to see their hard work pay off through tangible accomplishments.

“I want anyone who volunteers with us to have a positive experience, regardless of their age,” Evett said. “For someone under age 18, that positive experience could range from learning something new about wildlife to having a great day working side by side with a parent or mentor … or maybe we are able to give a kid who’s facing personal challenges in their life a great day because every person who passes them on the trail is taking the time to thank them for their work.”

The Friends of the Dillon Ranger District has many partners that have helped us expand and improve our youth programs in recent years.

One of our best-established youth partnership programs is with the Keystone Science School’s Mountain Adventures Camp. The camp specializes in expedition-based sessions that offer teens nonstop action and outdoor adventure through exploration, hands-on education and leadership development. Youths who take part in this program have helped restore trails in their own backyards.

“We partner well together,” said Seth Oglesby, Keystone Science School camps director.

“FDRD gets people out to help maintain trails for everyone to enjoy, and our classroom is our forest.”

The trail-improvement projects young people take part in with FDRD not only improve the Keystone Science School’s access to important learning tools, they also help youth develop new skills, Oglesby said.

“Getting youth outside to learn a skill — like how to use a tool — gives them a new appreciation for the outdoors and the habitat around them,” he said. “It also gives them something they can take home and share with others.”

In 2014, FDRD’s Youth Stewards Program is expected to engage about 620 youths ages 6 to 18 in 40 project days throughout the season.

Breeana Laughlin is the office and volunteer manager for Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. She can be reached at For more information on the organization, visit

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