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EPA recognizes Bigfork, Montana students for contributions toward natural resource conservation

Release Date: 05/20/2010
Contact Information: Richard Mylott,, 303-312-6654

“Conserving the Hollowed Ground” project earns President’s Environmental Youth Award for advancing the conservation of cave environments

(Denver, Colo. – May 20, 2010) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson recognized students from northwest Montana’s Bigfork High School at the 2009 President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) ceremony today. The students were recognized for their commitment to cave conservation and awareness on nearby federal lands, including Glacier National Park.

"The President's Environmental Youth Award recognizes young people from across the United States who have stepped up to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the communities where we live," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Our winners represent the future of environmental innovation. We're proud to recognize their incredible work, and thrilled to have their invaluable help in taking on the environmental challenges of today and tomorrow."

Student members of the Bigfork High School Cave Club have been committed to conserving cave resources in Montana since 2007. Through study and exploration, students have learned that caves contain unique mineral formations and provide critical habitat for bats, invertebrates and other animals. These students also realized that many caves, especially those on nearby public lands, were being damaged by human visitors.

In 2009, Cave Club members initiated the “Conserving the Hollowed Ground” project to help restore and protect caves. These activities include graffiti and trash removal, cave resource monitoring, computer modeling of data, and a study of aquatic cave invertebrates. These efforts are providing federal land managers with valuable information to help conserve cave invertebrates, and other fragile cave resources.

Bigfork High School Cave Club members also established resource monitoring in two unique and sensitive caves in Glacier National Park. Students are conducting visitor impact point mapping, photo monitoring, and temperature monitoring for these caves, and have provided specific recommendations on resource protection measures.

The Cave Club’s “Conserving the Hollowed Ground” conservation projects have been well-received and supported. Sponsors include the Charlotte Mountain Foundation, the Glacier Park Fund, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Best Buy for Business, and Gonzo Guano Gear. The student projects would also not have been possible without the support of the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

The students from Bigfork High School join individuals or teams of students from nine other locations across the United States receiving the 2009 President’s Environmental Youth Award. These include students from Westerly, R.I.; Syosset, N.Y.; Bethlehem, Pa.; Gainesville, Fla.; Addison, Ill.; Lubbock, Texas; Bettendorf, Iowa; Pleasant Hill and Martinez, Calif.; and Homer, Ark.

Collectively, these students have made outstanding contributions to environmental protection through projects that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and protect America’s waters. Some of the projects include collecting local cooking oil for recycling into biofuels; designing and building an environmental education center made entirely out of green, earth-friendly materials; and starting a recycling program and class on recycling.

Winners were selected from among applicants to EPA’s ten regional offices. Regional EPA panels judged the projects on environmental need, accomplishments of goals, long-term environmental benefits and positive impact on local communities. The panels also consider project design, coordination, implementation, innovation and soundness of approach.

PEYA has been presented annually since 1971 to honor students in kindergarten through 12th grade who design and implement innovative environmental projects.

More information on winners and project descriptions: