Virginia Tech will host 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program July 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 23, 2004 – Teenagers from over 25 states will visit Virginia Tech July 28 to Aug. 1 to participate in the national 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program (WHEP) Contest. The College of Natural Resources and the Virginia 4-H Foundation are preparing to host the competition while one team from each state plans to compete in areas of wildlife habitat and management.

"I think the most unique part of the competition is the analysis of aerial photographs of the surrounding land," explains Jeff Kirwan, associate professor of forestry in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech and Extension specialist. "Each team is presented with four different aerial maps and a species. As a team, they must use the maps to rank the best suitable habitat for the given species."

The contest is divided into five different parts: identifying wildlife foods; judging wildlife habitat from aerial photographs; prescribing wildlife management practices on a given site; developing an urban management plan for selected species; and developing a rural management plan for selected species. The competition includes both individual and group events. A team is qualified to participate at the national level only if it has previously won at the state level. Teams are allowed to participate at the national level only one time.

WHEP is a 4-H youth natural resource program dedicated to teaching wildlife management to youths, age 9-19, in the United States. Through participation in the 4-H WHEP event, youths learn the science of wildlife management. They also gain skills in oral and written communication, critical thinking and decision making, while participating in an activity that encourages observation of detail. They develop their leadership potential and learn about sportsmanship.

Co-chairs of the Virginia 4-H WHEP Committee are Ann Gallus, 4-H Volunteer in Loudoun County and Jennifer Mercer, Extension Agent for 4-H in Augusta County. Aside from the competition events, additional recreational activities will be available to the students such as day trips to Mountain Lake, the Cascades, and Jefferson National Forest.

"Being a part of WHEP was a great experience," says Rebecca Jameson, of Loudon County, Va., and past WHEP participant. "I had an excellent coach, Ann Gallus, who knew so much about the wildlife aspect as well as having what it takes to be a great teacher. Working with other team members in community activities and competitions made fun and lasting friendships with people who shared similar interests." Jameson is now a fisheries and wildlife major at Virginia Tech.

The national contest is sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, International Paper, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the National Rifle Association, and many local sponsors including Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, James City County 4-H Clubs, and Brunswick County Board of Supervisors.

The College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top five programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. Areas of studies include environmental resource management, fisheries and wildlife sciences, forestry, geospatial and environmental analysis, natural resource recreation, urban forestry, wood science and forest products, geography, and international development.

For more information on WHEP contact Jeff Kirwan at or (540) 231-7265 and Jenny Mercer at or (540) 245-5750.