Bigfork High School students recognized with the President’s Environmental Youth Award
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: April 25, 2020

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pleased to announce Colten and Ryan, members of the Bigfork High School Cave Club in Bigfork, Montana, as recipients of the 2020 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). Colten and Ryan are among 35 students across the country receiving the award from EPA and the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for outstanding environmental projects by K-12 youth.

“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we are also celebrating nearly 50 years of environmental education that fosters awareness about conservation issues, and helps communities make informed, responsible decisions about their environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are also honoring dedicated educators who spark enthusiasm in our youth to develop a love and respect for the environment and find solutions for issues that impact our air, water and land.”

“I want to congratulate our friends at the Bigfork High School Cave Club for translating and a passion for conservation and the outdoors into scientific data and research that are making a difference,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “These Montana students reflect the spirit of Earth Day and exemplify what applied environmental education is all about.”

As student members of the Bigfork High School Cave Club, Colten and Ryan developed a web-based system to collect information on bat populations in caves across Montana to help land managers and agencies better understand and evaluate future, expected impacts of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS, a disease that can have lethal effects on bats by increasing levels of energy usage during winter hibernation, has been confirmed in 33 states and is quickly spreading closer to Montana. The website Ryan and Colten created, eBatsMT, uses web applications from ArcGIS online so cavers can gather and upload data while visiting caves. In addition to collecting valuable data, the website serves as a forum connecting cavers and cave managers, and is encouraging cave stewardship and bat conservation across the state.

The President’s Environmental Youth Award

Since the establishment of the original Environmental Education Act of 1970, The President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) Program has recognized outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth for almost 50 years. Today, as part of the National Environmental Education Act of 1990, PEYA continues to promote awareness of natural resources and encourages positive community involvement.  Each year, PEYA honors a wide-variety of local-level projects developed by students, school classes, summer camp attendees and youth organizations to promote engagement in environmental stewardship and protection. Students in all 50 states and U.S. territories are invited to participate in the program.

EPA, in partnership with CEQ, today announced the recipients of the 2020 PEYA, as well as the  Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE), recognizing ten educators and 35 students from across the country for their leadership and commitment to environmental education and environmental stewardship. This year, seven educators are receiving the 2020 PIAEE and three are being recognized with an honorable mention distinction. Winning educators demonstrated leadership by integrating environmental education into multiple subjects and using topics such as healthy school environments, environmentally friendly agricultural practices, reducing ocean litter, gardening, recycling, or STEM to teach sustainability to K-12 students.

View PIAEE winners here. View PEYA winners here.