SAN ANGELO – Registration for the Texas Brigades Youth Wildlife Education and Leadership Development Program is now open. The deadline to apply is April 1.

Youth are taught leadership skills and natural resources conservation at the camps, each of which are limited to 20-30 students from ages 13 through 17, said Dr. Dale Rollins, Texas AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist at San Angelo and the concept’s originator.

“The camps are designed to develop life skills such as critical thinking and team-building through fun and interesting activities that focus on a particular game species,” Rollins said.

“As I reflect on my career, the dividends I’ve witnessed from the Brigades camps are not only professionally rewarding, but they also stoke my fires daily to push for conservation education,” he said. “And I believe those same sentiments apply to each and every one of the 100 or so volunteers who assist with the various camps.

“A lot of high school students aspire to find a career in wildlife management, but the field has always been highly competitive,” he said. “Participation in the Brigade camps offers them a chance to get not only a taste for such careers, but also to develop a network of contacts who can help them achieve their career goals. The Brigades network is one big family.”

Camp dates and locations:

– 12th Battalion South Texas Buckskin Brigade – Uvalde, June 5-9

– 19th Battalion Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade – Coleman, June 18-22

– 14th Battalion South Texas Bobwhite Brigade – Campbellton, June 26-30

– 6th Battalion Bass Brigade - Santa Anna, July 11-15

– 10th Battalion North Texas Buckskin Brigade – Albany, July 17-21

“Parents love the program,” said Helen Holdsworth, San Antonio-based Texas Brigades executive director. “They appreciate the level of education offered by the wildlife and natural resource professionals, as well as the challenges presented to the participants. We offer a high quality, unique experience for the students.”

“We receive many positive reports back from cadets and parents about the Brigades. One father sent an email to Dr. Rollins.” Holdsworth said.

The father wrote, “But in my opinion all that pales in comparison to what you have done for kids like Sam through the Brigades program. For two summers, now, I have seen how these kids become very passionate about wildlife and conservation. And I have seen firsthand how my own son has grown as a person as well, thanks to y’all.”

Participants are just as enthused. Charlie Neuendorff of Fayetteville wrote, “The camp was life changing; it was the best experience of my life. I made wonderful friends and I am excited to hopefully see them next year when we all return as Assistant Covey Leaders.”

The camps are a partnership effort of the Texas Wildlife Association, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, several universities, conservation groups, local soil and water conservation districts, private businesses and individuals with an interest in wildlife and youth leadership development. Tuition is $400 per cadet per camp, but sponsors are available to provide financial aid when needed, Rollins said.

“We’re also always looking for highly motivated adults from 20 to 60 years of age who are willing to serve as ‘covey’ ‘school’ or ‘herd’ leaders,” Rollins said. “They’ll get a one-of-a-kind intensive workshop in the game species they choose. But even better, they’ll get a full helping of appreciation and optimism about today’s youth and what a powerful impact they can have on conservation.”

Applications may be completed online or downloaded at http://www.texasbrigades.org . The deadline is April 1, 2011.

For more information, contact Holdsworth at hholdsworth@texas-wildlife.org or Kassi Scheffer at kscheffer@texas-wildlife.org or you may call 800-TEX-WILD or 210-826-2904.