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April 8, 2014 > Junior Rangers promote environmental awareness

Junior Rangers promote environmental awareness

By Anika Dokes

We are fortunate to live in an area where mountain trails, pristine lakes, and an alpine environment are just minutes away. The protection and preservation of natural resources in our community is an ongoing effort, and youth can be important allies in the process.

The San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society (SFBWS) is a non-profit organization that supports the education and research activities of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Their main goal is to Òpromote public awareness and appreciation of the San Francisco Bay and its natural history, and to conserve and preserve the remaining bay lands as essential wildlife habitat.Ó Located at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont, SFBWS established the Junior Refuge Manager Program to help make youth aware of their environment and how they can help sustain it.

The program was developed by Leah Thon who, as a young child, travelled all over the United States to National Parks, State Parks, and Wildlife Refuges with her parents and participated in Junior Refuge Manager Programs. Thon said, ÒI loved it when we would get to a park and they had a booklet with National Park Service offers at their sites. I have visited over 60 refuges that have Junior Refuge Manager Programs and I wanted Don Edwards Refuge to have something like that.Ó

The program goal is to promote and enhance significant wildlife habitats for migratory birds, endangered species, and other wildlife, and to provide the opportunity for wildlife-oriented recreation and nature study. Thon says, ÒI wanted to give them a reason to hike, explore, and be in nature. Sometimes it is hard for families to make it to a program guided by an educator, but the Junior Refuge Manager Program allows them to explore on their own time.Ó

Children, aged four to twelve, can pick up a free training guide at the visitor center or download the booklet on the Don Edwards website. They can participate in the activities on their own, within a group, or with their parents. Parents are encouraged to join with their child as a learning experience for both. Program participants can take part in a variety of activities such as Marsh Scavenger Hunt where they find and observe different things in the marsh; nature journaling recording what they see, hear, smell and feel; exploring the Visitor Center and watching a movie; and work on a crossword puzzle about career choices in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

When Junior Ranger participants complete activities at the refuge, they are sworn in as a Junior Refuge Manager and receive a button and a certificate.

Thon says, ÒYou can really change a childÕs life by instilling a passion for the outdoors and providing a lifetime of healthy recreational activities they can do. If we can help kids understand the importance of protecting plants, animals, and natural resources at a young age hopefully they will want to help and tell other people about the importance of it.Ó

The Fremont Junior Ranger program is self-directed and Refuge trails are open year-round from sunrise to sunset. The Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more about the Junior Refuge Manager Program or download the booklet, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuge/don_edwards_san_francisco_bay/ go to Visit and click on Just for Kids, or contact Outreach Recreation Planner Carmen Minch at (510) 792-0222.
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