McCandless teen earns Wildlife recognition
Nathan Greenberg, 15, of McCandless, has loved the great outdoors for as long as he can remember.
His grandfather taught him how to fish when he was 7, and his favorite family vacations were the ones spent hiking through America’s national parks. Competing on North Allegheny’s rowing team has given Greenberg, a sophomore, an even greater appreciation for nature.
“We spend nearly every day on the Ohio River practicing, and it’s made me realize how much the outdoors mean to me,” he said. “I’ve realized I want to help other people appreciate it, too.”
Over the past 15 months, Greenberg has worked to become a certified Conservation Ambassador and recently was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation.
Greenberg became a Conservation Ambassador last summer when he completed the Pennsylvania Wildlife Leadership Academy, a program he learned about from his middle-school GOAL teacher, Heath Gamache, when Greenberg was in eighth grade.
The Academy is a year-long program that begins with a rigorous, week-long, summer field study in which participants, ages 14 to 17, focus on one species of Pennsylvania wildlife, its biology, ecology, management, and conservation as well as leadership skills development.
Five different camps are offered throughout the state, including: “Pennsylvania Bucktails” at Stone Valley Recreation Area in Huntingdon County; “Pennsylvania Bass” at the Susquehanna Water Shed at Camp Oak Hill in southern Lancaster County; “Pennsylvania Brook Trout” at Sieg Conference Center in Clinton County; “Ruffled Grouse” and “Pennsylvania Gobblers,” both at Stone Valley.
Twenty students are accepted for each camp. Tuition is $500.
Gamache cited three strengths of the Wildlife Leadership Academy program.
“First, it brings in experts from various areas of wildlife management — like the State Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, US Army Corps of Engineers, and various colleges and universities — who have real-world experience,” he said.
“Second, the kids go into the woods, lakes and streams to do intense, hands-on learning throughout the week. They also perform intense presentations at the end of the week,” he added.
“And third, they go home after their field study to lead their community in conservation-focused projects to help promote outdoor recreation and conservation.”
Each year, more than 300 students are nominated to the Academy by teachers, counsellors, scout leaders and other mentors. The Academy reviews each nomination and invites 150 to apply. One hundred students are accepted, based on a rubric weighing their online application, resume, transcript and personal essay.
In 2017, Greenberg enrolled in the Brook Trout Camp, where he learned how trout function, performed fish necropsies (animal autopsies), and learned how to hook fish without harming them. He also learned how to fly fish.
“I took enough notes to fill multiple binders,” he said.
Upon returning home, he volunteered alongside the Allegheny County Conservation District to shore up the banks of Pine Creek.
“We installed logs with limestone to form a less erodible barrier and slow the stream’s current,” Greenberg said.
This past summer, he returned to the Academy as an assistant team leader, and participated in the Bass Camp.
“For my community service, I hope to schedule some speaking engagements to talk about outdoor recreation and the importance of conservation,” he said. Next summer, he plans to be an apprentice at the Academy, which will allow him to teach other students.
“I really like it. It’s a way for me to be with like-minded people. Lots of my friends like their indoor lifestyle, so the idea of being with other people who share my love for the outdoors is nice,” Greenberg said.
Recently, he was appointed by Gov. Wolf to the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation.
Alongside 19 other high school students chosen from throughout the Commonwealth, Greenberg will attend four meetings per year to provide the governor with innovative ideas for engaging today’s youth and future generations in outdoor recreation, conserving PA’s natural resources and enhancing the state’s
His service will continue until he graduates from high school in 2021.
“His appointment to the council shows me that Nathan exemplifies what it takes to be a Conservation Ambassador. He takes these opportunities to use his voice on behalf of our natural resources. This is exactly what we hope happens to our Wildlife Leadership Academy students. We hope to instill in them a sense of ownership and pride to take conservation out to the community,” said Michele Kittell, Executive Director of the PA Wildlife Leadership Academy.
The PA Wildlife Leadership Academy was started in 2007 with a goal of creating the next generation of conservation leaders.
Since its inception nearly 600 Pennsylvania teens from 61 counties, plus students from Va., Md., Vt. and Texas, have participated in the field schools. Academy graduates have volunteered more than 7,600 hours bringing conservation awareness to the public and have reached an audience of approximately 32,000 Pennsylvanians.
“This experience has deepened my interest and passion for the outdoors tenfold,” Greenberg said.
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.