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National 4-H Headquarters and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Award National Wildlife Stewards

Jennifer Martin, CSREES, (202) 720-8188
Janet Ady, FWS, (304) 876-7653

PHOENIX, March 26, 2008 - National 4-H Headquarters and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service jointly presented the 2008 Natural Resources Conservation Award to the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program at Oregon State University today at the 73 rd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

Oregon State's 4-H Wildlife Stewards program trains and supports science education volunteers, enabling them to work with science programs in community schools across the state. The innovative program, which has received support from the National Science Foundation and other national and regional environmental education foundations and grant programs, was chosen for its exemplary contributions to wildlife conservation and environmental education.

"The 4-H Wildlife Stewards program is a quality example of 4-H programming that equips youth with hands-on learning experiences that foster exploration, discovery and passion for the environment and science," said Colien Hefferan, administrator of USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). CSREES is the parent organization to National 4-H Headquarters. "These experiences result in young adults who are prepared to contribute, excel and lead in their communities and workplaces."

"In this digital age, when more and more children are immersed in a virtual world of computer games and digital music, we need places where their sense of wonder about nature can be nurtured. And we especially need committed people who can bring those places alive for our children," said Lyle Laverty, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. "The 4-H Wildlife Stewards Program is an outstanding example of how government, academic institutions and individuals can work together to make a difference for kids."

4-H Wildlife Stewards program volunteers undergo 30 hours of training and commit to a minimum of 50 hours of service to a local school community site. Evaluation results suggest that the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program is having a positive impact on student interest and skills in science, and it is designed to become a national model for supporting science education. The 4-H Wildlife Stewards program was previously recognized by National 4-H Headquarters as one of 43 Programs of Distinction, required for consideration for the annual interagency conservation award. Programs of Distinction reflect the highest quality 4-H youth development programs found in communities across the United States.

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. This is the inaugural year for recognizing a Program of Distinction. The award program is also supported by the Wildlife Management Institute, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Boone and Crockett Club and the National 4-H Council.

During the awards ceremony, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and CSREES signed a memorandum of understanding continuing their partnership for another five years. Laverty signed on behalf of the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Hefferan signed on behalf of CSREES.

National 4-H Headquarters seeks to promote positive youth development, facilitate learning and engage youth in the work of the land-grant universities and USDA to enhance their quality of life. Nearly 7 million youth, ages 5-19, participate in 4-H youth development experiences in all 50 states, territories and military installations worldwide. More information is available at www.national4-hheadquarters.gov.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, CSREES focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.csrees.usda.gov.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.