The GIS Mapping Replication and Expansion Project, a unique partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 4-H designed to enable dozens of youths to experience, nature and gain real-world conservation experience, has been honored by the Service and 4-H National Headquarters with the 2012 Connecting Youth with Nature through Natural Resources Conservation Education Award.

The Project provides interactive, hands-on learning opportunities at National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries in four states. The project also builds leadership skills and pathways to careers in natural resources stewardship through classroom and field activities.

The award was presented this week at the 77th Annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Youth who learn today to value America’s fish, wildlife, and natural places will become stewards of those resources tomorrow. Through this innovative program, we’ve been able to tap into the experience and support of the 4-H program to put dozens of youth leaders on the ground at wildlife refuges and hatcheries,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “These young men and women are mapping data points that will help our wildlife managers do a better job of improving habitat and managing species on our National Wildlife Refuges, while also gaining valuable experience in natural resource careers.”

The program has also enabled the Service to strengthen ties with Cooperative Extension Units at Land Grant Universities – ties that are essential as the agency strives to build its science capacity and recruit a strong workforce for the future. The program is active in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and New York.

The Service and 4-H will expand the program this year to new sites that will focus on urban and disadvantaged youth who are new to 4-H and conservation.

Through this program, participants learn valuable work skills that are used heavily in natural resource and environmental fields.  They leave with a demonstrated skill set and resume, as well as what the Service hopes will be the passion to pursue degrees and careers in wildlife biology and natural resource management.

The award program was initiated in 1980 to recognize 4-H volunteer leaders from across the country who assist youth in learning about wildlife and fisheries conservation and management. Today the award recognizes young people pioneering new projects in natural resources conservation. The Wildlife Management Institute, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Boone and Crockett Club also support the award program.

For more information on the GIS Mapping Replication and Expansion Project, or on other innovative partnerships with 4-H, visit

photo: Joe Courneya/4-H American Indian Youth Program

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