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Dallas High senior Drew Dyer, far left, took part in a four day Youth Range Camp for students interested in a career in natural resource and rangeland management.
July 31, 2012
DALLAS -- Drew Dyer traveled to Ontario for a family reunion in mid-July, right about the time the massive Long Draw and Miller Homestead fires were raging in Southeastern Oregon.
Dyer, 17, said you could see smoke all along the horizon as they left. It was a strange feeling, knowing he had been camping not far north of the affected area near Riley three weeks prior -- and studying wildfires and the landscape now being destroyed.
"In the context of that, it's crazy," Dyer said. "All of those places that burned won't have sagebrush for 15 to 20 years at least."
A senior at Dallas High, Dyer has a strong interest in preserving woodland, grasslands and other vast natural areas. In June, he was one of 17 students from Oregon, Idaho and Washington participating in the Oregon State Extension Service's High Desert Youth Range Camp.
The program was aimed at teens interested in careers in natural resource and rangeland management for would-be scientists and land officials.
Dyer was also chosen from the group to represent Oregon in the high school youth forum at the national Society of Range Management's annual conference in Oklahoma City in February. His trip is all expenses paid.
"I was pretty surprised to be selected," Dyer said. "I'm a little nervous, but I'm excited for the opportunity to go there and meet professors and other high school kids interested in nature."
Dyer and others lived in tents for four days in the Northern Great Basin Experimental Range. While there, youths learned how to identify different plant species, discern between soil types, what vegetation is most manageable on an area of land and issues related to wildlife.
Anna-Marie Chamberlin, OSU Extension leader in Malheur County, said the natural resource professions need new recruits.
Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario reports a high hiring rate for students with rangeland management education, even those with only associate degrees, Chamberlain said.
"We need good managers who understand all sides of the issue," she said.
Dyer said his parents did fire suppression and conservation work with the Bureau of Land Management, while his grandfather was a state wildlife biologist.
"I guess you could say I got fostered into this," said Dyer, who's also active in Dallas High's FFA chapter.
Dyer said one activity had students building protected test plots to see how quickly certain combinations of vegetation burns. He said his presentation at the conference next year will probably be on the impact of fire on sage grouse habitat.
He eventually wants to attend Oregon State University to earn a degree in rangeland ecology, then live in the high desert.
"It's the smell of sagebrush," Dyer said. "That's one thing I like about it, it's a very calming, open place."