Young people earn their ranger badges at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

More than 80 people spent a recent Saturday at the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge for Junior Refuge Ranger Day. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service holds similar events at wildlife refuges throughout the country to encourage children to explore and learn about the wonders of nature.

On this particular day, the youngsters spent four hours participating in fun educational activities. Service staff and volunteers conducted the event that included learning stations and a scavenger hunt covering the flora, fauna and history of the wildlife refuge. Participants also took advantage of the nice weather to walk along the Crystal Boardwalk.

“Junior Refuge Ranger Day is an important opportunity for the refuge to welcome the local community,” said Jennifer Heroux, Visitor Services Manager for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “It’s great to see families taking advantage of outdoor experiences like this one. Maybe some of the children will choose to pursue a career with the Service.”

Ash Meadows NWR Manager Mike Bower (right) administers the official pledge to some new Junior Refuge Rangers. It’s anybody’s guess how many times Puddles has recited the pledge.

The activities included interactive games, learning about what lives in the water on the wildlife refuge, arts and crafts, and a visit from the USFWS mascot Puddles, the blue goose. Each child completed the activity stations in order to earn their Junior Refuge Ranger badge, which they received upon reciting the official pledge:

As a Junior Refuge Ranger, I promise to do all that I can to respect, protect, and enjoy our wildlife refuges. I will do my best to keep the refuges clean and safe for the plants and animals that call them home. I will visit another park or refuge near where I live and will share what I learn with others.

This Junior Refuge Ranger is learning about some of the aquatic species found in the Crystal Sprint outflow.
A group of Junior Refuge Rangers explore along the Crystal Boardwalk during Junior Refuge Ranger Day at the Ash Meadows NWR.

The Junior Refuge Ranger Program is intended to raise awareness about national wildlife refuges, the USFWS mission, and the importance of preserving wildlife habitat.

Perhaps the event will be a lasting memory for the children and their families, through which they gained a better understanding of why wildlife refuges exist and how they can help protect such places for the future.