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USU-led Bear River Celebration Earns Statewide Environmental Ed Honor

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013

Bear River Celebration leaders from USU

Bear River Celebration leaders and USU alums, L-R, Marni Lee '00, MS’07, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Emily Malik ’01, MS’05, Logan City Environmental Dept. and Tiffany Kinder ’00, MS’12, USU Water Quality Extension, received USEE honors.

activity at the 2013 Bear River Celebration

Youngsters at the 2013 Bear River Celebration get 'up close and personal' with an owl. The annual event was named Utah Environmental Education Program of the Year by the Utah Society of Environmental Education. Photo by Eric Peterson.

Cache Valley’s annual Bear River Celebration and Free Fishing Day, a community event that’s become a must-attend staple for many local families, has been named 2013’s Utah Environmental Education Program of the Year by the Utah Society of Environmental Education.

Initiated by Utah State University’s Water Quality Extension more than 12 years ago, the annual gathering drew more than 1,000 attendees to its most recent event, which was held at Logan City’s Willow Park June 8, 2013.

“The award is a wonderful surprise and a well-deserved honor for our staff and the incredible partners who make this event better with each passing year,” says Nancy Mesner, program coordinator of USU Water Quality Extension and associate professor in USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences.

Mesner credits much of the program’s success to celebration coordinator Tiffany Kinder, Water Quality Extension programs assistant, who has guided the annual event for the past four years.

“The celebration is a great family event, with opportunities for kids to have hands-on experiences with wildlife and to learn about the Bear River watershed,” says Kinder, who earned a master’s degree from USU in watershed science in 2012. “Some of our young participants have caught their first trout; seen wild birds up close for the first time at our event. These experiences will stick with them for a lifetime.”

Though Kinder has been with the program for only a portion of its 12 years, she remembers modest attendance at earlier gatherings.

“Each year, the event has grown,” she says. “I remember a few dozen attendees one year. Last year, we had 500. This past June, we really blew out the numbers.”

The secret to the event’s success, Kinder says, are the community partnerships.

“We’re greater than the sum of our parts and everyone brings special expertise,” she says. “It’s the perfect marriage of university, Extension, public agencies, wildlife societies and private companies.”

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conducts the free fishing day as part of a nationwide program to encourage people to get involved in the outdoors and learn about conservation. The City of Logan is another key partner, Kinder says, in providing space at Willow Park and leading educational activities. Private partners Walmart and Home Depot have provided volunteers and supplies through their respective employee outreach programs.

Other partners helping with the event include the Bureau of Land Management/USU National Aquatic Monitoring Center, Cache Anglers, Cache County Extension, Cache Valley No Child Left Inside, Hyrum City Youth Council, Old Ephraim Mountain Men, Stokes Nature Center, Utah’s chapter of Delta Waterfowl, Utah Falconers Association, Utah Native Plants Society and the Willow Park Zoo.

“It’s a wonderful network of partnerships and a great way to reach out to the community and teach people about environmental stewardship,” says USU alum Marni Lee, assistant manager and education coordinator with the UDWR’s Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area, and an event coordinator.

In addition to community partners, Kinder says USU students contribute to the planning, set-up, operation and clean-up of each event.

“The celebration offers a great training ground for USU students who are preparing for careers in science outreach and education,” she says. “We’re grateful to everyone who roles up their sleeves and works hard to provide a meaningful event each year.”

Kinder and Lee travel to Utah’s Alta Ski Area Oct. 26, to accept the USEE award at the 2013 Utah Environmental Education Conference. Established in 1981, the Salt Lake City-based USEE is a nonprofit organization that provides information resources for environmental educators, K-12 teachers, higher education and the Utah community.

Related links:

Contact: Tiffany Kinder, 435-797-2580,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

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