Students and Conservation Groups Forging Partnerships for Wildlife

from Wildlife Promise

Guest blog post by Ashley Rust and John Gale.

Great opportunities abound to become involved in important, local on-the-ground wildlife habitat projects. Meaningful project options in most areas are right in front of us—from stream restoration to noxious weed removal to planting shrubs that wildlife need for forage.  Student groups or chapters will help participants prepare to become tomorrow’s leaders who care about our remarkable wildlife.

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a more than 20-year history of working with colleges and universities through its Campus Ecology program to improve their overall green educational programming and onsite sustainability. Founded in 1989, its student outreach programs, campus consulting, climate action competition, and educational events and resourcesreach about 1,000 campuses each year.

Colorado Wildlife Federation (CWF), an affiliate of NWF, is creating something new: college student chapters. CWF is encouraging college students who want to do more for wildlife habitat to join or start a new CWF student chapter. We envision that these young people will become lifelong members or supporters as they become informed and empowered to participate in the key wildlife issues that CWF tackles. In addition to meeting monthly at a convenient place, the students will participate in hands-on quarterly habitat restoration projects that CWF organizes. The student chapters will designate a member to attend CWF board and Issues Committee meetings, and to shadow a board or staff member at the Capitol during the state legislative session. These opportunities provide excellent real-world examples of how the students can put their degree to work and build their own networks.

The first event for CWF’s new Metro Student CWF Chapter (Metropolitan State University of Denver) was held on October 5 at South Platte Park in Littleton, a Denver suburb where NWF holds its wonderful Hike & Seek event. Students worked with South Suburban Park staff to remove hundreds of invasive buckthorn bushes from the wetland areas in the park.  Students felt energized as they helped enable native trees and bushes to thrive. In turn, this project enabled park staff to accomplish a large task they could not assume on their own.  College students have a lot of energy!

Students and other volunteers with the Colorado Wildlife Federation remove buckthorn, an invasive species. NWF photo courtesy John Gale.

A month later this group of students and their professor joined forces with a local restoration group who planted hundreds of trees and plants around a former gravel pit that has become a flourishing wetland bird habitat.  CWF will expand this model by forming chapters at Colorado School of Mines and at Colorado State University.  Student chapters from these universities will work together on wildlife projects and volunteer events and come together under a common cause that will strengthen CWF and its wildlife conservation programs.

How to start a student chapter or group:

  • Identify a leader. Find an energetic individual at the educational institution such as a professor, teacher, a committed student, or parent who will help recruit and mentor students and facilitate meetings.  If you are looking for a professor or teacher to fill this role, consider an instructor in an earth science course. The affiliate’s staff and board members serve as the catalyst by providing guidance, expertise, and a vehicle for projects that are meaningful for the students and age appropriate as they help protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Draft goals for the chapter in collaboration with the leader. Will the group focus upon on-the-ground education and habitat restoration projects?  Do you want to include an advocacy education component?
  • Recruit members.  We suggest that you review the goals with the students who initially join the new chapter and make adjustments if needed. To work, the goals must be feasible and embraced by the student membership. It also is important to identify and schedule an initial project or event (consistent with the goals) that will energize the group.  Additionally, your organization should consider offering a special student membership rate to the student chapter members.

If you are interested in forming a student chapter, CWF is pleased to offer guidance and expertise. Contact Ashley Rust at arust1@mscd.edu

For more ideas, to support our work, and to learn more about wildlife conservation initiatives in Colorado, visit  Colorado Wildlife Federation  and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And to learn more about NWF’s Campus Ecology program, you can visit CampusEcology.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Ashley Rust is a Colorado Wildlife Federation Board Member & Professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. John Gale is a Regional Representative for National Wildlife Federation.