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Nov 30 2015

Wilderness U

Part 2 in our series of interviews with the new generation of wilderness advocates

Featured, Voices of NexGen

Below is the second in a series of interviews that writer and MWA state council member Allison Linville conducted with students and alumni of the University of Montana who are or have been members of the University of Montana Wilderness Association (UMWA), an offshoot of MWA geared towards college students. A UMWA alumnus herself, Linville interviews Jocelyn Catterson, who studied Resource Conservation at UM and worked in environmental education throughout college.

AL: What made you want to join UMWA?

JC: I joined UMWA at the end of my freshman year because I was interested in the community. I had seen the group around campus and heard about trips that they were going on. I got ahold of the president at the time and asked how I could get involved. The first thing I ever did with the group was a canoe trip down the Flathead River, and I immediately fell in love with that community of people, a group of people interested in getting outside and preserving the wilderness.

AL: What was your overall UMWA experience like?

JC: [After I joined UMWA], I started regularly attending the weekly meetings and potlucks, hanging out with members outside of meetings, going on more and more trips, and I even hosted a meeting at my own house. Then the group started asking for volunteers to campaign for the 2012 election and I volunteered. That soon transitioned into a paid job that including phone banking, working on the "pledge to vote for the great outdoors" campaign, and even some data entry.

After the election, I came back in the spring semester as an MWA intern and started trying to get more young families with children to become members of MWA. I came up with wilderness related activities and hosted MWA events/booths tailored to that demographic. Since then, I have been more involved with the regular MWA (i.e. attending comment periods and political events).

AL: What was your favorite thing about being involved with UM-MWA?

JC: I loved spending time with a group of people who are passionate about the environment and making a difference in a way that I thought was really effective.

AL: Did UMWA inspire you to pursue a career in conservation?

JC: Currently, I am working on a vegetation and soils monitoring project in the Swan and Blackfoot Valleys. I am monitoring vegetation and soils on old roads that are set to be decommissioned. Obviously Wilderness protection involves leaving areas roadless and I find the idea of decommissioning old roads fascinating. During the off season, I normally teach.

This August, I will be moving to Northern New Mexico to further my teaching career. I think that getting children outside so that they develop a connection with the natural world is incredibly important and the first step in creating environmentally responsible citizens. I want to work as a teacher in the public school system and work hard to weave environmental/conservation education into the required teaching curriculum. I want to teach students to think critically about the things that are happening in the world and the difference that they are capable of making.

AL: How did you become involved in conservation before joining UMWA?

JC: I was first involved with conservation through environmental education. When I first came to college, I did a little volunteering with the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, but I primarily volunteered, and eventually worked, for the Montana Natural History Center.

AL: What could organizations do to recruit more volunteers and governing volunteers who are younger?

JC: They could create more programs like UMWA! I believe that the idea could be transferred to a high school setting and maybe even middle school. Most young people want to make friends, feel like they are a part of something, feel like they are doing something worthwhile. Programs like UMWA are incredibly appealing because of that.