Presiden’t Environmental Youth Award

Inspired by the Next Generation


(left to right) Emma Hutchinson, Administrator Gina McCarthy, Eric Bear, Milo Cress, and Christina Bear

After serving as EPA’s regional administrator in Denver for only a few months, I am already impressed with the incredible staff we have here at EPA. I am also equally encouraged by what I have seen from our younger generations and the level of their environmental commitment. I recently had a chance to visit with several young people who are making a huge difference. These young folks attended the recent Climate Change Panel in Boulder, Colorado and had a chance to talk with me and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.


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Bigfork Cave Club

We worked on four basic areas of conserving natural caves across the state of Montana. These areas include graffiti and trash removal from vandalized caves, monitoring of resources in caves in good condition, computerizing our data into ArcGIS, and a non-collective method of studying invertebrates. We chose to do this because the cave club started as a recreation club and then we noticed a lot of trash and graffiti in caves. As a result we decided to focus our club on the conservation of caves, which was just a stepping stone to more in depth cave conservation methods.

Overall the trip to Washington D.C. was an eye opening and life altering experience. We were able to meet many unique and interesting people from around the country, we even made a few friends. We met iconic figures such as President Barack Obama, Philippe Cousteau, and Xabier Arzuaga; this was all a great honor and a humbling experience. Besides meeting such amazing and highly renowned figures, we also were served food by a woman who had been starving in Ethiopia and were driven to the airport by a Somalian immigrant who was eternally grateful for government. These experiences made us realize how lucky we are to live in America.

This award meant a lot to us and the ceremony couldn’t have been better. Everyone was saying what an inspiration we were, but we were the ones who were truly inspired by everything that happened on the trip. The President’s Environmental Youth Award made us realize that our efforts are not in vain and that this is something that should be continued. PEYA was a defining moment in what we want to do with our futures. We both plan to incorporate conservation in our future careers with the conservation of coral reefs, caves, and all of the world’s natural resources.

About the Authors: Tia Bakker and Ernie Cottle are high school students in Big Fork, Montana. They are EPA Region 8’s President’s Environmental Youth Award recipients in 2009, and recently paid a visit to Washington, D.C. to receive their award from Administrator Jackson.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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