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12th Annual Area 5 WRM CDE at Cook Canyon Ranch

story by Randall Henry

The 12th Annual WRM CDE Contest was held at Cook Canyon Ranch in Eastland County, Texas.The 12th Annual Area 5 Wildlife and Recreation Management Career Development Event and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) teamed up with Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. (TPWD), Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board to support conservation education at Cook Canyon Ranch in Eastland County, Texas.

The regional contest was sponsored in conjunction with the Texas Wildlife Alliance for Youth (WAY). The WAY program’s overall goal is to support and promote proper management and conservation of wildlife and natural resources.

Cook Canyon Ranch has more than 25,000 acres and promotes conserving natural resources and young people interested in the management of those resources.

“I have been here at Cook Canyon Ranch for six years, and considering we are only eight years old, I have had the privilege to see it grow and prosper,” said Wildlife and Resources Manager Tom Peebles.

Peebles noted he likes to work with conservation professionals and students who want to see and experience natural resources management of a ranch like Cook Canyon.

“It is always an honor for me to be surrounded by students, conservation professionals, and environmental enthusiasts,” Peebles said.

The FFA had 63 teams with 252 students entered, along with 4-H having 6 teams with 24 students competing against each other. In 2012, the record-breaking attendance was 62 teams with 222 students, so this year that statistic got erased by the new record.

All 252 students were challenged at the plant identification phase of the regional contest.“The contest was a great one, and Cook Canyon Ranch was fantastic,” said Carolann Corado, manager for the Upper Elm-Red local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Bowie, Texas. “We had 69 teams compete, which is the largest group of students ever competing in this regional contest at the ranch.”

The students tested their knowledge in areas used for both regional and state contests, including plant preferences, plant identification, habitat evaluation and management, biological facts, fish and game laws, safety, and techniques.

Overall, the top FFA team winner was Stephenville (377 points) and the top individual winner was Tyler Mitchell (Stephenville). The best overall 4-H team winner was McLennan Co. (267 points) with Katelynn Butler (Erath Co.) being awarded the top 4-H individual award. FFA Texas areas four, five, and eight team winners were Stephenville (377 points), Plano (281 points), and Cleburne (323 points) respectively. The top FFA Texas individual winners included Tyler Mitchell (Area 4/Stephenville), Hannah Shaw (Area 5/Plano), and Ashley Tucker (Area 8/Cleburne).

Many sponsors pooled their resources to support the regional contest, including NRCS, Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, TPWD, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and personnel from local SWCDs.

NRCS Wildlife Biologist Ricky Linex (left) helped students during the regional competition.There was a large assortment of wildlife at the techniques table testing the students knowledge.