By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The 2023 Southern Alberta Youth Range Days will be held from July 18-20, 2023 at the Country Hall in Del Bonita, Alberta.
“Range Days is an opportunity for youths aged 13-18 of all backgrounds and experiences to learn about the grasslands located within the Milk River Watershed,” said Allison Choquette, wildlife and outreach technician with Milk River Watershed Council Canada.
Choquette says that Southern Alberta Youth Range Days exists to foster a greater appreciation among youth for the lands of southern Alberta, teach them the unique aspects of the area, and help them learn how to best manage these lands with regards to rangeland management, conservation, and other things.
“The goal is to have the youth leave with a positive experience of the native grasslands and a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of flora, fauna, the community, and livestock,” Choquette said.
Even though this year’s agenda has not yet been fully created yet, Choquette says that past activities included horseback riding, floating down the river, plant and bird ID games, rangeland management plan activities, campfires and stories, camping, swimming, and Amazing Race themed games. For 2023, Choquette says that Range Days is looking to include many things, including an evening bat walk with acoustic detectors that will be geared towards youths aged 13-18.
“This is a great experience to meet individuals working at various conservation organizations throughout southern Alberta and can provide youth with some career guidance and tips,” Choquette says.
Choquette emphasizes that all the partner organizations who come together to make this event a possibility love to take part in this event as it’s a fun opportunity to engage with youth and see them developing a better understanding for native grasslands.
“Youth will leave with a greater appreciation for native grasslands, their diversity, and how these unique habitats create important habitats, economic benefits, recreational opportunities, and ecological sustainability,” Choquette said.
Those partner organizations, Choquette says, include River Watershed Council, Nature Conservancy Canada, Alberta Conservation Association, Cypress County, County of Forty Mile, Cardston County, and Warner County.
Even during the restrictions imposed by COVID, Choquette says that the Watershed Council ran a modified Family Range Days event series in 2022 that were day trips geared towards youth and their families to participate in guided plant walks, bat talks, and rangeland management activities.
“We are all enthusiastic to bring back our regular three day, two night event this year!” Choquette eagerly stated. “We hope to have a good turnout of interested youth that are eager to learn more and participate in our event. We’re looking to introduce some new activities, engage with more Indigenous knowledge holders, and work hands on with the youth to provide them the best experience for our first Youth Range Days event since COVID.”
Choquette encourages anyone who is interested in more information about Youth Range Days 2023 to either keep an eye on the ‘Southern Alberta Youth Range Days’ Facebook page, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (403) 647-4035.
“We encourage anyone and everyone to join – regardless of your experiences or background,” Choquette says. “While the event is also geared towards youths aged 13-18, we allow flexibility for youth who may be a year or two above or below the age range if they’re interested in participating.”