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August 7, 2009
By Robert Mills
Bootstraps, a University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) program that provides full-time employment to high-risk youths, received a $10,000 contribution from Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU) in August. The program, which combines interactive classroom instruction and natural resource field work, trains at-risk youth for careers in natural resource management and wildlife preservation.
NBU, which provided Bootstraps with the $10,000 grant for the third year in a row, is comprised of conservationists, outdoorsmen and hunters. The group works to increase populations of wildlife in Nevada, improve wildlife habitat, and promote hunting and outdoor sports. For 29 years, NBU has worked to preserve the population of bighorn sheep and Nevada wildlife through community education, legislative action and hands-on labor.
Rod Davis, Bootstraps coordinator and Lander County extension educator, said the two groups crossed paths on a water project three years ago.
“My Bootstraps crew was working on a bighorn sheep guzzler just outside of Battle Mountain,” Davis said. “They were setting up a great big apron—maybe the size of an office building—and a big pad that collects snow. Water is collected in an underground basin over the winter in a big vinyl tank and is stored there to feed water out to the wildlife in the drier months.”
Curiosity led to cooperation between Bootstraps and NBU.
“That’s where we met Larry Johnson with NBU, and he said he wanted to make a contribution to us,” Davis said. “Larry just walked up and asked, ‘who are these guys?’ We talked a bit about the program, and he said, ‘well, we’d like to help them out.’”
With the support of NBU, at-risk youth enrolled in Bootstraps can continue to build and repair meadow fences, thin invasive juniper and pinion growths, build enclosures to protect aspen stands, repair wildlife watering troughs, and clean up campgrounds.
“Because the NBU contributions are given without restrictions, I can help these kids in ways I wasn’t able to before,” Davis said. “For example: I can buy crew members MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat). They can throw them in their packs and sit in the shade and have lunch later on.
“They’re toting a chainsaw out there and they go through a lot of calories, so these MREs are really great – especially when they’re stationed way out there, and they don’t want to walk back to the main camp to eat. I couldn’t purchase MREs with a lot of the formal grants we were receiving.”
Davis said NBU’s contributions help Bootstraps youth understand they’re part of a greater whole.
“One thing that’s great about NBU involvement is that these kids realize they’re not out there by themselves,” Davis said. “These kids start to see that they’re not just 10 or 12 guys out there with chainsaws. They learn they’re connected to their habitat. It’s one of the primary goals of Bootstraps, really.
“It takes these disenfranchised kids who are not connected with their communities—other than the Sheriff’s office—and shows them that they’re part of a community by interacting with BLM, wildlife biologists and NBU.”