By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
A talk on prescribed burning in Nebraska earned Chase County senior Blair Hartman a trip to Florida earlier this month.
Having attended the youth range camp the past three summers sponsored by Nebraska’s Section of the Range Management Society, Hartman was well aware of the Society’s High School Youth Forum activities.
One of those opportunities is to give a six to eight-minute presentation on anything range related at the organization’s state meeting.
Hartman decided to compete with a presentation on prescribed burning at the state meeting in Ainsworth, along with another summer camper.
Her talk explained what prescribed burning is, how it works in Nebraska and how farmers and ranchers can use it as a management tool.
Following the presentations, Hartman was chosen to represent the Nebraska Section at the organization’s national meeting in Orlando Feb. 8-13, and received an all-expense paid trip to do so.
Accompanying her on the trip was Shelly Kelley of North Platte, who coordinates the Nebraska Section’s summer range camps.
Hartman was one of 23 youths from across the nation and Canada competing for top honors with her presentation in Orlando.
While she didn’t place in the top five, she still felt like a winner.
“It was simply amazing,” she said.
“When you put 23 youths from across the nation together for a week who are all passionate about the same thing” it was a great experience, she said.
She said the networking she gained, as well as the many new friends and bonds made can’t be understated.
The winning presentation on “The Do’s and Dont’s of Range Management” was given by Lexi Brooks of Texas, who happened to be one of Hartman’s roommates. Another of her roommates placed third. While all of the delegates at the Youth Forum didn’t necessarily have an ag background, range management affects all of them. That came out in their presentations, she noted.
One talked about bats and how they use the same water sources as cattle. Another spoke about wolves.
In addition to the presentations, the youths enjoyed an ecological tour at Deseret Ranch, the largest ranch in the United States.
Another stop was the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where they learned about some of Florida’s native plants and the state tree, the cabbage palmetto.
The group also visited and ate at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Orlando.
At the High School Youth Forum business meeting, Hartman was nominated by a fellow delegate for president. She and a young man from California competed for the top spot.
While she lost by a single vote, Hartman said Wyatt Waas is very qualified for the position.
“I am excited for him to be president,” she said.
The night before returning home, all of the youths gathered for “graduation” and an exchange of state souvenirs.
Hartman said she will give her talk at this summer’s youth range camp, in an effort to encourage other youths to get involved in the national competition.
Attendees at the Nebraska Section of Range Management’s state meeting will also hear it later this year.