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Fifteen seniors in the University of Wyoming’s new outdoor recreation and tourism management degree program are working on three outdoor recreation-based projects in Fremont County throughout the spring semester.

The students are taking part in the first “professional semester” in the degree program. The professional semester is a suite of classes taken together that includes capstone projects that are tied to a specific community in the state.

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Fremont County was chosen for the first professional semester location due to its abundance of outdoor recreation and the opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and experience to specific projects. Faculty members in the program mentor the students, and project sponsors work directly with the students to understand the specific projects.

This year’s project sponsors include Jared Oakleaf, with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Paula McCormick, with the Wind River Visitors Council; Brooks Jordan, with Wyoming State Parks; and Chris Floyd, of the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation. The students will visit Fremont County this week, meeting with their project sponsors and familiarizing themselves with the community.

The projects students are working on include:

— Outdoor recreation assessment: Students in this project will create an inventory and analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats regarding outdoor recreation opportunities in Fremont County. The finished product will be used by the Wind River Outdoor Recreation Collaborative; this collaborative is being convened by the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation.

— Outdoor recreation collaborative toolkit: Outdoor recreation collaboratives have the potential to transform rural communities that rely on outdoor recreation and tourism for economic development. There are three different collaboratives in Wyoming either forming or underway — Big Horn Basin, Dubois and Wind River. Additionally, there is a need for a toolkit of “best practices” for these types of collaboratives for other rural communities and other state offices of outdoor recreation nationwide. The toolkit will help other communities form, run and implement recommendations for enhancing outdoor recreation.

— Office of State Lands “Bus Loops” and BLM trails public scoping: The Bus Loops is a full section of publicly accessible state land enjoyed by recreationalists in the Lander community, given its close proximity to town. The BLM is considering expanding trails onto adjacent BLM land. Working with the BLM — and using the feedback from a 2018 trails charette, the proposed International Mountain Biking Association Trails Solutions Trails Plan and the BLM Lander Resource Management Plan — students will gather feedback through a public scoping process for the Bus Loops extension and possible reclamation plan for the Bus Loops area. This public scoping, with input gathered both in person and through an online tool, will be part of the Lander BLM’s National Environmental Policy Act process.

Allison Hale, of Cranberry, Pa., a senior in the outdoor recreation and tourism management program, says she is excited for the Bus Loops project due to her work history in Wyoming at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s bike park, helping build and maintain all aspects of the park.

“It is valuable to see what our job opportunities look like outside of college,” Hale says. “I also think we are lucky to have very cool and engaging projects to participate in.”

Jamie Hansen, of Laramie, is another senior in the program working on the toolkit project. She says her team is working to “create a product that will positively impact the outdoor recreation industry not only in the state of Wyoming, but hopefully across the Rocky Mountain West as well.” Hansen also noted that the toolkit project will be something she can employ later in her career.

Justin Santini, of Fort Myers, Fla., who is working on the outdoor recreation assessment, previously lived in Lander for three years attending Central Wyoming College. A National Outdoor Leadership School alumnus, he works in the field as the climbing director for the Yellowstone High Adventure Outpost. His knowledge of outdoor recreation in Fremont County gives Santini insight into this project.

“It’s rare to blend education and recreation into a single project that aims to promote the well-being of the local population and the environment,” he says. “I believe this project will expose more people to Fremont County’s expansive and wild recreation areas.”

The students working on the Fremont County projects, listed by their hometowns, are:

  • Ada, Okla. — Shiloh Windsor.
  • Aurora, Ohio — Brynn Hirschman.
  • Broomfield, Colo. — Michaela Stark.
  • Cranberry, Pa. — Allison Hale.
  • Florissant, Colo. — Joseph Eisenhardt.
  • Fort Myers, Fla. — Justin Santini.
  • Gillette — Dillon Hayden.
  • Green River — Alex Fernandez.
  • Greybull — Emily Smith.
  • Laramie — Jamie Hansen.
  • Lindenhurst, Ill. — Dana Even.
  • Miami, Fla. — William Paul Stuckey.
  • Milwaukee, Wis. — Drew Petty.
  • Powell — Alex Aguirre.
  • Upton — Jett Materi.

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