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VENTURA FWO: Connecting Tribal Youth with Nature at Yosemite National Park
California-Nevada Offices , July 25, 2014
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David, a middle-schooler from the Bishop Paiute Tribe, identifies a lodgepole pine tree using a cone and a field guide during a phenology exercise at Yosemite National Park.
David, a middle-schooler from the Bishop Paiute Tribe, identifies a lodgepole pine tree using a cone and a field guide during a phenology exercise at Yosemite National Park. - Photo Credit: Photo by USFWS.
Bishop Paiute Tribal youth willed their way up the rock at Puppy Dome in Toulumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park.  Firstbloom campers were treated to an afternoon of rock climbing with the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service.
Bishop Paiute Tribal youth willed their way up the rock at Puppy Dome in Toulumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. Firstbloom campers were treated to an afternoon of rock climbing with the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service. - Photo Credit: Photo by USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service join fourth and fifth graders from the Bishop Paiute Tribe for a three-day summer camp in Yosemite National Park each July. Part of the annual Firstbloom tradition, the camp connects natural resource professionals with tribal members to share knowledge of fish, wildlife and plant conservation, within the surroundings of the habitats upon which they depend.

This year, fish and wildlife biologists Lena Chang, Colleen Draguesku and Michelle Hunt from the Ventura and Reno Fish and Wildlife Offices joined conservation partners and the Tribe to camp out, engage in environmental education, and assist with outdoor recreation activities from bird watching to rock-climbing. Each year, the cultural traditions of the Tribe are shared through games, lessons and stories about the skills used by tribal ancestors, including the traditional use of various plants.

The natural resources of Yosemite National Park provide a stunning backdrop for the annual adventure, instilling a sense of wonder in both the volunteers and students.

"The scale and majesty of this place inspires the kids in such a way that only nature can," said Lena Chang, fish and wildlife biologist and camp volunteer.

This year the group of nearly two dozen children assisted with habitat restoration, and learned about plant phenology on a hike to the iconic Elizabeth Lake. Fish and wildlife biologist Colleen Draguesku has volunteered at the camp for the past four years.

”Not only were we as natural professionals able to share our knowledge of species we encountered, but the children also shared aspects of their culture with us and identified species’ names in the Paiute language,” Draguesku said. “My experiences with this camp have not only made me a better biologist, but they have also helped me understand the continuing history of a place very dear to my heart.”

"These children were amazing. Their curiosity, awareness and desire to learn and experience a connection with their natural world are inspiring," Chang said. ”Exploring and loving the outdoors as a child guided me on a path to a career in wildlife conservation. I hope experiences like this will spark a lifelong appreciation for the natural world in these children, perhaps leading them toward a career in conservation as well."

The Service’s Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office works to conserve and protect threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants, and collaborates with communities and conservation partners to build a future that supports both people and our unique and diverse natural resources. For more information about our work visit http://ventura.fws.gov


Firstbloom at Yosemite National Park
https://flic.kr/s/aHsjZw4SA1
Contact Info: Colleen Draguesku, (805) 644-1766 ext. 221, Colleen_Draguesku@fws.gov



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