Not long ago, while renewing an out-of-state fishing license, the fly shop owner loudly asked if this is the year I "come clean." To the great entertainment of folks gathered at the counter, he asked, "Hair color still brown?"

No. My hair is gray.

While I feel and often act decidedly young, I’m guess I’m not. This means many things, some even good-my patience and judgment are a bit more developed-and many lessons are behind this gray hair.

I’m not the best to say what a group of millennials might be thinking about professional development, leadership and the uncertain times we’re in. Nor am I the right person to build a new ICL program to develop young conservation leaders. But I knew we should do it.

This is why I asked several of our younger staff to create a new effort to reach and help develop young conservation leaders. They looked over what other groups are doing from New York to Oregon. They considered what they know about Idaho and ICL (these five, all under 30, have put in real time in conservation). Then they gave me the plan.

Emerging Leaders for Idaho’s Environment

Emerging Leaders for Idaho’s Environment (ELIE) is our new program to broaden ICL’s base through creative channels, engaging the next generation of conservationists with the use of their unique skills and expertise. Aligned ¬†with ICL’s mission, ELIE will work to create an informed and engaged conservation majority in Idaho through education, advocacy and community building experiences.

ELIE will work to empower the next generation of conservationists.

Young Americans

In October 2014, the Council of Economic Advisors for the Executive Office of the President provided some key conclusions about young Americans:

Millennials, the cohort of Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, are the largest generation in the U.S., representing one-third of the total U.S. population in 2013. With the first cohort of Millennials only in their early thirties, most members of this generation are at the beginning of their careers and so will be an important engine of the economy in the decades to come.

Aside from their numbers, Millennials’ diversity sets them apart from other generations. Many Millennials are immigrants or the children of immigrants who arrived in the United States as part of an upsurge in immigration that began in the 1940s.

Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work. Millennials are not just virtually connected via social networks; they value the role that they play in their communities. For instance, high school seniors today are more likely than previous generations to state that making a contribution to society is very important to them and that they want to be leaders in their communities.

Goals for the Emerging Leaders Program

ELIE will be composed of three to five active community members between the ages of 25 and 39 in each region of the state. As a whole, ELIE will consist of  about 15 people statewide and engage audiences between 18 to 39 in their region, with guidance from a staff liaison in each office.

The goals will be to create public awareness and education opportunities to engage the target audience, to encourage the next generation to become an active part of Idaho’s conservation community, to broaden the base throughout the state by gaining new members and supporters in underrepresented areas, and to allow for creative space to envision new ways of engaging with people in Idaho.

Interested in Participating?

So now it begins. We are now accepting applications, with the form and more information available on our website. Or you can call Jenny Estes in our Boise office, 208.345.6933 x 17.

This gray-hair is excited about what ELIE might become, and I’m already proud of what ICL’s self-named "Millennial Falcons" team of staff members have cooked up.