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Teens Learn Environmental Stewardship on CO Summer Trip

Ironwood Tree Experience's American Experience program takes teens hiking and backpacking through iconic western landscapes. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
Ironwood Tree Experience's American Experience program takes teens hiking and backpacking through iconic western landscapes. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
July 5, 2018

DURANGO, Colo. - What's the best way to ensure a future with healthy, sustainable communities? For one nonprofit, the answer was obvious: Train young people to take care of the environment.

Nine teenagers recently completed a two-week trip through southern Colorado, where they learned about sustainable agriculture, watershed restoration and the impacts of climate change. It's one of many outdoor programs offered by a Tucson-based nonprofit, the Ironwood Tree Experience.

"We knew that connecting kids with the outdoors really just motivated them in ways that were really good for them, but also good for our community," said Ironwood Tree Experience executive director Suzy Dhruv, who created the program along with her husband, Eric. "And so, we wanted to start an organization that was truly for young people."

Dhruv said teens with whom she works are aware that the planet they'll inherit faces many unknown challenges as a result of climate change, but they are eager to learn more. So, in addition to guided outdoor experiences, the program introduces teens to real professionals working for conservation nonprofits and public-lands agencies.

Mike Quigley, Arizona state director of The Wilderness Society, hiked alongside Ironwood Tree Experience kids on their visit to Mesa Verde National Park and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. He spoke with them about careers in outdoor recreation and natural-resource management, and said the young people he talked with make him optimistic about the future of environmental stewardship in the United States.

"It was really encouraging for us," he said, "to see that there is another generation of Americans coming up having that same inquisitiveness about the natural world that we had when we were their age, and that same sense of desire and passion to see these places continue to be protected."

Since 2005, the Ironwood Tree Experience has led thousands of teens on outdoor experiences. Its founders hope the kids who come through the program learn to live connected to the natural world.

More information is online at ironwoodtreeexperience.org.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - CO