A lot of organizations aim to get more youths hunting and fishing, but the New Mexico Youth Conservation Foundation has longer-range goals, Director David Stambaugh says.
“We’re not trying to make elk hunters or duck hunters or fly fishermen,” he told the Outdoor Reporter last year. “We’re just trying to make conservationists” – because the future of hunting, fishing and all our outdoor traditions depends on entire generations working to protect those traditions.
In this issue of the Outdoor Reporter, we honor the New Mexico Youth Conservation Foundation as our Affiliate of the Quarter.
The initial idea behind NMYCF arose about six years ago, when Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge reached out for help with a youth snow goose hunt. Stambaugh, an avid waterfowler, was among a number of adults who stepped up. But that experience showed them the need for a more organized approach to helping youngsters learn not just to hunt or fish, but how to be an ethical, conservation-minded young sportsman or woman.
Since then NMYCF has hosted or helped conduct fishing events and hunting camps for youngsters at various venues. Even more ambitious was the Foundation’s effort to establish a new youth hunting site at Bernardo Wildlife Management Area. NMYCF played a crucial role in obtaining the necessary funding, donations and volunteer labor to build the site, which is owned and operated by the Department of Game and Fish.
Now the organization is ratcheting up its game, starting with a new program called “First in the Field.” The ultimate goal, Stambaugh said, is to create opportunities for kids and adults to learn outdoor skills, ranging from tying flies to shooting clay targets, and eventually to fishing or hunting. “We need to be doing 100 of these events a year,” he said.
But putting on such events statewide will take the efforts of a wide range of groups, government agencies and individuals, and Stambaugh has a plan for that, too. He, along with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the Department of Game and Fish, are developing ways to bring those different groups together to work toward the common goal of getting youth and their families outdoors.
“There are all sorts of organizations that would like to have events where folks can learn to fly fish or cast, or shoot a bow or rifle, but they don’t have the funding, the resources, the volunteers to pull it off,” he said. “We want to make it possible to provide the funding, the resources and the volunteers so that every organization that wants to do an event has what they need.”
Already NMYCF has 12 “First in the Field” events planned from June through December, Stambaugh said, including several in conjunction with New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
Another big step is a planned “R3 Summit” set for Sept. 15-17 in Socorro. The idea is to “recruit, retain and reactivate” youths and adults through hunting, fishing and other aspects of conservation, he said. The summit aims to bring together nonprofit hunting, fishing and conservation groups, along with state and federal agencies, the outdoor industry, and individuals “to talk about creating a new generation of outdoorspeople,” he said.
The New Mexico Youth Conservation Foundation is not a membership organization, but rather a catalyst for change, Stambaugh said. “We want to create coalitions. Because the opportunity is there. The participants are there. I believe it’s high time we do something. And as a coalition we can do a lot more than we can as separate organizations.”
For more information about the New Mexico Youth Conservation Foundation, go to www.nmycf.org.