Contact Person: Chris Adkins
Each year, the Iowa Association of Naturalists (IAN), and the Iowa Conservation Education Council (ICEC), present awards to recognize excellence in the field of Environmental Education. This year’s recipient of the Chris Holt Environmental Education Award, assigned to an Outstanding EE Program for Youth, is the Dallas County Conservation Board’s Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Trek.
For more than two decades, DCCB has invited high school youth in Dallas County to journey with the naturalists on an 11 day backpacking trek into the 4.5 million acres of the Selway-Bitterroot / Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness of north-central Idaho. The core of this award winning program can perhaps best be understood by reflecting on the words of poet and wilderness advocate, Robert Service, in “The Call of the Wild”.
“Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there’s nothing else to gaze on,….Big mountains heaved to heaven,…Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost? Have you strung your soul to silence? Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.
The participants of this program gazed, searched and listened to the silence. They accepted the challenge, learned, cost paid in full.
“Have you marked the map’s void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,…Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
Forever, for the trekkers of this program, the map of Idaho will hold not a void space delineating the Selway-Bitterroot, but a place they gathered with some real mongrels, and together grew bigger in its bigness.
“They have cradled you in custom, they have primed you with their preaching, they have soaked you in convention through and through. They have put you in a showcase, you’re a credit to their teaching-
These trekkers represent the best Dallas County has to offer, and yet they were pilgrims in this wild classroom.
“But can’t you hear the Wild? – it’s calling you. Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betides us, let us journey to a lonely land I know. There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a star agleam to guide us. And the Wild is calling, calling….let us go.
Together we listened, probed, sought, journeyed. We are lucky to have grown wild with this group of friends and from here forward the whisper and gleam that calls will carry their names.
The Selway-Bitterroot represents the largest wild place left in the lower 48 states. The participants of this program approached this experience having grown up in the most altered landscape of North America. The program provided them a classroom, unrivaled, to examine the issues of Wilderness and the role of wildness in their lives. The trekkers embarked on a journey. The nature of this journey is best expressed by the following quote-
And the world can not be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long
but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.
The Unforeseen Wilderness- Wendell Barry
DCCB’s Trek has led students on a journey to this incredible wild place, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Strange as it may seem, the DCCB trek takes its participants half way across the continent, in an effort to ground them in the wildness still present in Dallas County and to invite them to call it home. A measure of the success of this program can be seen in the numerous volunteer acts provided for DCCB by past participants of this trek.
DCCB accepts this award for all the souls who have shared a wild trail with us over the years. Thank you for growing wild with us.
If you are interested in exploring the lessons this program offers, please contact DCCB to learn of future treks.
This is the second award for EE excellence that DCCB has received. DCCB was awarded the “Ding” Darling Award: For An Outstanding EE Program or Event Which Informs and Educates the General Public, recognizing DCCB’s annual Prairie Awakening Celebration.
“I am very proud of our EE staff and the success that they have in providing quality education opportunities for the public”, stated Mike Wallace, Executive Director, DCCB.
For more information contact:
Dallas County Conservation Board
14581 K Avenue
Perry, Iowa 50220
Office hours: M-F 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.