Conservation. That is the main focus of everyone who is a part of TU. But honestly, what’s the point? Millions of dollars and volunteer hours are funneled into this amorphous word by hundreds of thousands of people world-wide. So why don’t we just stop? That instant revulsion you felt in the pit of your stomach that occurs when you are faced with something you know is inherently wrong is the reason. Whether you’re an in-the-field conservationist, or merely someone who participates in a local stream clean up every once in a while, your love for the environment is something that fuels you to protect it. It is this love for the environment that inspired me to write an essay for Sportsmen For Responsible Energy Development (SFRED) on why public lands are important to me. I was then lucky enough to be one of five chosen to fly out to Washington D.C. to meet with the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel. So how did I get to where I am? Well, first let me start by introducing myself. My name is Haley Powell. I’m a youth board member for my local chapter #533, a youth membership chair for my Wyoming state council, and a proud member of the National Youth Leadership Council. Did I mention that I’m seventeen? I would’ve NEVER gotten to where I am now had it not been for the connections, experience, ideas, and friendships that I made at the first and second National TU Teen Summit.
I had just been made a youth board member of my local chapter when I got an email from TU national about applications being available for the first TU Teen Summit. The email described a four day experience in State College, Pennsylvania in which one could meet other like-minded teens and discuss and gather information and ideas as to how to encourage more teens to participate in TU. I thought, “Hey I’m a teen and I like conservation. Why not?” So I filled out the application and sent it in. To my great surprise, about a month later I got a letter in the mail, telling me that I had been accepted. What was to follow was the best four days of my life. The summit was as much a learning experience for me as it was for Franklin Tate and Rochelle Gandour-Rood, both of whom became two of my favorite people in the world and some of the best resources for teen information and projects.
Not only did this summit inspire me, but it gave me a feeling of connection. Up until this time, I was (and sadly still am) the only youth member of my chapter, and seemingly the only person in my high school who was actually interested in conservation. It was one of the most isolated feelings that I had ever experienced. I use the term had, because even though I am still the only youth involved within my chapter, I now know that I am not alone when it comes to caring about the environment. The thirteen other people that I met at the original summit gave me an essential support network of people like me whom I could talk to and sympathize with. Had it not been for the summit, I honestly believe that I wouldn’t still be involved with TU or if I were, it wouldn’t be near the capacity at which I am involved with it now.
Since that first summit experience, I have helped plan the second summit experience in my great state of Wyoming, where the number of participants increased from fourteen to about thirty. I have been a part of three TU films, and the star of one of those films which encouraged conservation in the Little Mountain area of Wyoming. I have testified in front of committees to promote funding for Game and Fish. I have been published in multiple state newspapers, State TU publications, on the TU website, and in TROUT. Most notably, I was able to travel to D.C. to speak with the Secretary of the Interior about the issues associated with youth involvement and ways to get more youth involved.
Overall, that first summit is the reason I am still involved and inspired within TU. I truly believe that it is such a worthwhile and beneficial experience. If you know a young person who is connected with your chapter or council who doesn’t seem to be that involved, give them an application for this summit. That teen will come back with more ambition and will be inspired to participate more heavily in your chapter, I can guarantee it. This was such a fantastic experience for me and I would readily recommend it to anyone who asked. The summit experience changed my life.