WHEP in Maine?

June 22, 2015 at 5:24 pm

WHEP logo greenI have been asked to serve as a wildlife biologist representing state agencies for the National Committee for the Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP), a 4H-based program to inform high school students about wildlife species, habitats, and management practices.  No doubt that I was nominated to this committee because of relationships I have maintained with the Past Chair and Chair-elect from the National Committee. However, the National Committee is extremely interested in expanding the program into the Northeast making my geographic location and current position with IFW an ideal fit for the WHEP program. Since I am new to the program, I have a lot to learn. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to “participate” (really observe) the Indiana State WHEP competition, and took full advantage. The event was held on a muggy day in May at the Wright Center at Purdue University. This is an excellent site for the competition, because it is a conference center/research facility housed on one of Purdue Research Forest properties that is known for genetic work with black walnut trees. During the competition, the students were tested on their abilities in four separate tasks: species identification, natural history and habitat requirements, knowledge and application of management practices for selected wildlife, and a written management plan for a portion of the facility. [caption id="attachment_764" align="alignleft" width="300"]OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Students assessing site conditions for the written Wildlife Management Plan for the Indiana State competition.[/caption] There is an emphasis built into this program to get youth outside, and demonstrate their knowledge of wildlife and habitats, rather than rote memorization. I was impressed by the knowledge and skills that the students exhibited, but also, the interaction of the students, team coaches, and the resource professionals. Coming back to Maine I was eager to see if this program might have a place here, since Maine has such a wealth of natural resources and a desire to promote those resources. I asked my two contacts from the National WHEP committee to come to Maine and put on an informational seminar about WHEP to a group of interested Maine natural resource professionals, Maine 4H, and enthusiastic high school educators (who are already active in natural resource education). It was a great day spent at Gene Letourneau (Frye Mountain) WMA in Montville. We learned more about the program, sampled some of the field exercises that students would participate in, and shared interest in Wildlife education. I am excited to see this program work in Maine, and perhaps, host a National event someday. In the meantime, I will be travelling to Alabama in August to participate in my first National competition while serving on the committee. I will share my experience when I return from that trip. Anyone interested in learning more about the program, visit http://www.whep.org/ or contact me at robert.cordes@maine.gov.