Find updates about the HWY 50 Bridge Closure on the Gunnison County website


Teaching conservation through experience: Camp Rocky 2023

Hide Featured Image

From all corners of the state, high schoolers converged in Divide, Colorado to learn about natural resource conservation in a week-long immersive Camp Rocky experience. Throughout the week, 31 campers delved into the world of resource stewardship, learning about the importance of protecting and preserving our environment.

Sitting by a fallen log, three female students observe and instructor at Camp Rocky 2023

From interactive workshops to hands-on activities, they have gained a deeper understanding of sustainable land use, wildfire mitigation, and the interdependence of ecosystems.

At Camp Rocky, students get the opportunity to work side by side with trained professionals in the fields of rangeland science, forestry management, soil and water science, and fish and wildlife management. Through team projects, problem-solving activities, and mentorship, they learn the importance of effective communication, cooperation, and leadership. 

Importantly for youth learning progression, many of this year’s campers were returning attendees, with several enjoying their second or even third year at Camp Rocky. 

Through their support, Conservation Districts play an important role in the cultivation of the next generation of conservationists by sponsoring campers across Colorado. 

Junior leaders roast marshmallows by the fire at Camp Rocky 2023

“My favorite part of Camp Rocky is definitely the community. Plus all the opportunities are amazing,” said one of the campers from northeast Colorado. “And I’ve met so many friends from across the state. It’s just really amazing.”   

Almost all of the campers were sponsored by Conservation Districts to some degree – affording them the opportunity to make lifelong memories and friends, and to give them the beginning tools to pursue careers in resource conservation. 

Ben Berlinger, Rangeland Management Specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, was one of the instructors leading the rangeland science cohort for the week. 

Students sitting in tall grass, learning about range management through range clipping at Camp Rocky 2023

“The campers in the range management discipline come away with an appreciation of rangelands and the many values healthy rangelands provide to humans,” Berlinger said. “They have a working knowledge and skills in rangeland plant identification, how to assess the quality of the rangeland in terms of biological diversity/productivity, and prescribed grazing management techniques.” 

The utilization of hands-on learning is what lies at the heart of the Camp Rocky experience. Activities for the week for the range management group included plant identification, collecting plant samples, and making plant presses. Additionally, they gained experience in calculating stocking rates for pastures and ultimately put their knowledge to the test in their final project – creating a range management plan for an on-site llama grazing pasture.

An instructor shows students how to retrieve a core sample from a tree at Camp Rocky 2023

Across camp, the forestry management, soil and water science, and fish and wildlife management groups were equally as busy. The up-and-coming foresters worked on tree identification, learned about slope aspect and forest density, and took tree core samples to identify tree ages. 

Simultaneously, the soil and water group learned about soil profiles and gained experience taking soil samples, while the fish and wildlife management group worked side-by-side Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff as they conducted a fish survey in a nearby stream via electrofishing (a non-lethal fishing technique that uses an underwater direct current electricity to determine abundance, density and species composition of fish).

Students and instructors stand in and near a stream with fish nets and buckets to study the species composition of local fish

Campers donned waders and equipped themselves with fishnets as they helped CPW professionals collect the stunned fish to help gather the data.   

By the end of the week, the budding natural resource professionals had implemented their very own resource management projects.

Students observe a soil sample test near a lake at Camp Rocky 2023

In addition to the range management plan, other group projects included resource management plans for aspen grove support, assessing local stream CFS (cubic feet per second) flows, and wildlife camera surveys.

While there was certainly a lot of learning and work taking place, there was also room for lots of fun – with activities ranging from scenic hikes and campfires, to obstacle courses and talent shows. Of course, the fan favorite Camp Rocky tradition of glow-in-the-dark capture the flag continued for another exciting year of fun filled competition. 

Noah McCord, Camp Director, highlighted the overall goal of Camp Rocky, 

“We hope that the lessons learned and friendships forged at Camp Rocky will inspire our campers to become lifelong stewards of our natural resources,” McCord said. 

To find out more about Camp Rocky or next year’s registration, please visit      

Three students try out archery during Camp Rocky 2023
Group of Camp Rocky 2023 students posing on a mountain summit


A group shot of more than 40 participants and staff of Camp Rocky 2023


Show Post Date