June 20, 2010 in Outdoors

No child left behind means no girl left inside

By The Spokesman-Review

Virgil Emery slips on the rocks and takes a bath while helping his daughter, Annie, land a nice cutthroat. “I didn’t lose the fish! And I had the camera set on automatic so my wife could get the picture,” he said in his defense.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The great outdoors used to be a man’s world.

Only in the past few generations have women begun filling jobs as rafting guides, forest mangers, range botanists, wildlife biologists and park rangers in numbers rivaling their male counterparts.

It’s safe to say that part if this trend started a few decades ago as more dads began taking their daughters out to hike trails, catch fish, scale peaks, pedal backroads and paddle rivers.

“At the University of Montana, most of my fellow students were in the wildlife program because their dads had introduced them to hunting,” said Beth Flint, supervisory wildlife biologist for the Pacific Reef National Wildlife Refuge Complex based in Hawaii.

“My parents weren’t hunters or backpackers, but I was there because they took me to national parks. I clearly remember being fascinated by a ranger naturalist giving the campfire talk and thinking, now that’s a job I would like.”

In the Pacific Islands, the two newest refuge managers are young women who came to marine biology through surfing and paddling, Flint said.

Just 18 years ago, Flint, who was working her way up the ranks with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, traveled to the agency’s National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia for sessions that included most of the agency’s wildlife biologists.

“I was sitting in a meeting listening to a lot of young, white males in the big room feeling bad for themselves because of the push to hire women,” she recalled. “It was a surreal moment because as I looked around, I was about the only female in the room.”

Today, The Spokesman-Review Outdoors Department salutes dads who have helped make stay-at-home girls a thing of the past.

Flint also encourages fathers and mothers of all children to buck a troubling recent trend that spells trouble for nation that needs to balance development with nature and the environment.

“Statistics show that more parents are leaving both kids – the boy and the girl – at home because they’re not going outdoors at all,” Flint said.

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