Young Canadians play a vital role in wetland conservation

On Aug. 12, youth around the world will celebrate the United Nations’ International Youth Day by promoting action to further encourage the empowerment and participation of youth in decisions that affect their lives. With Project Webfoot, an interactive youth education program, now reaching over 42,000 Canadian students, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) salutes all the youth who have visited, studied, helped conserve and enjoyed our Canadian wetlands in the past year.
“Youth involvement in wetland conservation and education has always been important to DUC,” said Rick Wishart, DUC’s director of education. “Youth are our future. By putting them in touch with wetlands and nature, DUC is empowering Canada’s young people to take action on something that very much affects their lives—the health of the environment.”
Nic Gooderham of Lake Temagami, ON., is one Canadian youth who has taken this message seriously.
“I grew up on an island on Lake Temagami,” explained Nic. “Being in that setting surrounded by water and by ice in the winter has given me a real appreciation for nature.”
When Nic saw an opportunity to get involved with wetland conservation at his school, Timiskaming District Secondary School in New Liskeard, ON, he jumped at the chance to learn more about the surrounding habitat he’s grown to love so much.
“Ever since I was little I always loved being around nature. Some friends were involved in the T.E.R.R.A. program at school and told me how much fun it was so I decided to check it out. I went to the marsh with them and loved being there.”
The Timiskaming District School is officially a DUC Wetland Centre of Excellence. The outdoor education program there is designed to make students aware of and involved with nature. With the help of DUC and Green Street, students in the program complete a variety of cross-curricular wetland projects and deliver hands-on outdoor environmental education programming to hundreds of younger students from their community and beyond.
Nic has now turned his love of nature into a full-time career option. Thanks to a Green Street internship, he has spent the summer working at Hilliardton Marsh in Northern Ontario, a major DUC habitat project near New Liskeard. The experience gained by duck banding and maintaining the nature park will prepare Nic well for his first year in the Fish and Wildlife Technician program at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie this fall.
Since joining the program, Nic has learned much about wetlands—such as their ability to clean our drinking water, reduce the impact of flooding and droughts, and provide habitat for hundreds of plants and animals, Nic encourages other youth to get involved in wetland conservation and suggests people can start by learning more about the environment that surrounds them.
There are many ways, in addition to the Wetland Centres of Excellence program to get involved with wetland conservation through DUC:
•Since 1997, more than 190,000 Canadian youth have learned about the tremendous value of wetlands—such as their ability to clean our drinking water and reduce the impact of drought—through DUC’s curriculum-based Project Webfoot program.
Using interactive programs and resources, Project Webfoot makes learning fun! Cost to schools is minimal, as classes are sponsored to receive resource kits and in many cases, hands-on wetland field trips.
•Free wetland resources are available for elementary through to high school students at http://www.ducks.ca/resource.
•Youth age 7 to 21 can become a Greenwing member to learn more about wetlands and get involved in conservation.
•Ten lucky teens are currently participating in the annual Great Greenwing Adventure at Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba. Timed to coincide with youth day, this eco-adventure combines science and fun, bringing teens from across Canada together with DUC scientists and staff for a week-long experience like no other. The trip is sponsored by DUC.
•High schools interested in longer-term wetland projects can also become a Wetland Centre of Excellence. With assistance from DUC and funding from Green Street, these students will plan and complete wetland projects and also mentor younger generations of students in environmental education. Centres currently operate in B.C, ON, MB, and NB.
•More information about all of these programs can be found at www.ducks.ca
The passion and dedication of young people like Nic remind us that the actions of just one person can make a big difference when it comes to wetland conservation.
Youth appreciation for wetlands has never been more important. Up to 70 percent of critical wetland habitat has already been lost in settled areas of Canada and more continues to disappear every day.
To find out more about how the young people in your life can help, visit www.ducks.ca or call 1-800-665DUCK (3825).
Since 1938, DUC has conserved, restored and managed wetlands and their associated habitats for the benefit of North America’s waterfowl. These habitats—nature’s water filters—also benefit other wildlife and people.

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