Colorado high school students Ingrid Hofmeister, Josh Waller and Nathan Shannon were selected by the Colorado Section of the Society for Range Management to participate in the High School Youth Forum, an SRM-sponsored youth activity held jointly during the 72nd Annual SRM annual meeting. This year’s meeting was held in Minneapolis in February, with the theme “Gateway to the Prairie.”

Ingrid and Josh completed their junior year attending Branson and Hoehne High Schools, respectively. Shannon is a sophomore at Kim High School.

All three students were selected for the HSYF based on their outstanding achievements last year in Colorado FFA range judging and plant identification.

In 1966, SRM recognized a need to involve youth with the range-related activities and education provided at this annual meeting. Since that time, the HSYF has been a highlight of the SRM annual meetings.

High school delegates to the HSYF are chosen by each of the 21 individual sections of the parent society throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, based on their high degree of interest in the range and natural resources field, as well as on their exemplary dedication and effort to learn more about this area.

At the HSYF, the students had the opportunity to meet people from many countries and get a firsthand view of what SRM is all about, including its organization, goals and the role it plays on a world-wide basis.

An important goal of the HSYF is to provide an opportunity to learn about range and natural resource management and future careers through interaction with SRM professionals.

As one of the more important activities, each delegate to the forum participated in a paper presentation competition, with the content covering a range-related topic. All presentations were judged by a diverse panel, with the top five papers recognized at the SRM awards ceremony. The top paper winner was invited to return to next year’s meeting to help with the forum and present their paper to the general membership of the society.

Other activities included a local ecological field tour of the meeting site and a program to enhance communication skills.

The title of Ingrid’s paper was "The Desertification of Southeastern Colorado Rangeland." In her paper, she discussed the factors that contribute and interact, leading to soil degradation and potential desertification. She highlighted that, through proper range management and prescribed grazing involving proper stocking and rotational grazing practices, desertification can be reversed.

Josh presented his paper "Improving Water Utilization on Arid Rangeland." He discussed ways to better use the limited water that ranchers receive on their rangeland. His paper focused on the main benefit of improving soil health through implementing proper grazing management. Josh indicated that improved grazing practices will allow more water to infiltrate, be held in the soil, and used by the plants that provide the many ecosystem services for ranchers and society.  

Nathan received fourth place honors for his presentation. His paper was titled "Water: The Lifeblood of the Range." In his abstract, Nathan stated, “The control of grazing is an important part of range management. Before ranchers can graze a pasture efficiently, a good livestock water supply needs to be developed. Many different methods can be used to supply the water. Good water management can benefit cattle as well as wildlife."

Visit cssrm.org to read all three papers..

Since the number of delegates that can attend each year is limited, selection for this activity is considered a high honor for those students selected. Because of this perspective, the planners of this year’s forum were excited about the program and activities that were scheduled to provide both an exciting and rewarding educational experience for all that attended.