My Road to the Nevada High School Youth Forum Letty Vega and Dan Harmon Nevada Section, Society for Range Management High School Youth Forum Representative and Agricultural Science Research Technician, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Reno, NV
y name is Letty Vega and I am a 17 year old senior from Elko, Nevada (Figure 1). Since I was 13 years old I have been attending the Nevada Youth Range Camp. This is by far one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Not only did I learn a little bit of everything about rangelands and range management, but I also made forever lasting friendships, and was given amazing opportunities (Figure 2). When range camp was first introduced to me, I was a freshman at Elko High School. My best friend suggested we go to range camp over the summer, which is put on by the Nevada Section-Society for Range Management. I had no previous knowledge of what range camp was, but it didn’t stop me from saying, “of course!” Who wouldn’t want to go camping for a week somewhere new with their best friend? After that first camp, held on the 3rd week every June, I was hooked. It didn’t take long for me to realize these were my kind of people. We were all from different parts of the state with a common interest; our rangelands. Throughout the week, campers worked with counselors on topics ranging from soil texture to riparian restoration. Curriculum mainly focused on land management issues. My favorite part about the first year was going to Smith Creek Ranch and helping with a stream channel improvement project. Right away I felt the positivity of working together to benefit the land. I have been fortunate enough to return to Smith Creek Ranch the years following for additional projects including planting willows, water developments and reducing pinyon and juniper encroachments. I grew up in Elko, Nevada and my family has been ranching in Northern Nevada since the 1890’s. My great- great grandfather came from Spain and my great-greatgreat grandmother from Italy. They started the ranch in North Fork when they originally homesteaded the property. On the ranch they ran three bands of sheep, 200 head of horses, 700 head of cows, and grew their own hay. When I was little, my family reunions were the brandings out on the ranch. All the cousins that weren’t quite working age would play together in the pasture, barn, and horse trailers. After all the work was done everyone would go into the house where my Uncle Guy would sit in his old chair and my Aunt Diana would be setting up for lunch. Everyone would be going back and forth from the kitchen and the living room talking and helping with whatever needed to be done. These are some of my fondest childhood memories (Figure 3). My grandpa was in FFA and my aunt was a state officer for Nevada. I am now in FFA where I compete in range science and veterinary medicine. The life that I lived everyday was not just daily life, it was a life filled with science and management that I began to appreciate even more when I started attending range camp. Besides being a fun outdoor experience, range camp uses applied science to teach basic principles and management tools to use when addressing rangeland issues. At the end of the week there is an awards ceremony in which the counselors determined the “Trail Boss”- the camper who had gone above and beyond to work hard, expand their learning, and help others. Not only is this an award of proud achievement but this person is chosen to go to the Society for Range Management National Meeting that is held annually, to represent the Nevada Section and participate in the Society for Range Management High School Youth Forum. Last year right before my senior year of high school, I was awarded Trail Boss and was chosen to attend the Society for Range Management National Meeting in St. George, Utah. Prior to leaving for the National Meeting, I presented my presentation to the Nevada Section at their annual winter meeting. 36 May/June 2017
In the high school youth forum, students from all over the United States, Canada and South America compete by giving a presentation and submitting a paper on a rangeland topic of their choosing. I knew immediately that I wanted to choose a topic representing the world that I grew up in, especially my appreciation for the land, and to discuss conservation from a rancher’s perspective. When I started writing my paper, I didn’t realize how broad of a topic conservation is. After a couple of extremely rough drafts my mentor, Dan Harmon, Agricultural Science Research Technician for USDA-ARS, Great Basin Rangelands Research unit, asked me what I myself contributed to conservation. I have fond memories of helping my Dad with chores on the ranch like mending fences, moving livestock and rotating pastures as well as
Figure 1. Letty Vega, senior at Elko High School and 3rd Place Award Winner in the Society for Range Management High School Youth Forum.
The Progressive Rancher