DURHAM - Just by its name, the Coverts Program might look like a secret mission for undercover Cooperative Extension agents. In fact, since 1995, this very visible, very public program has trained more than 450 private citizens to serve as stewards of New Hampshire’s wildlife and forests.
Applications are now being accepted for this year’s Coverts training session (May 7-10), which Extension coordinator Haley Andreozzi describes as a combination of “a camp for grown-ups” and a “master class” in topics related to the health of the state’s wildlife and forest resources. The ideal Coverts participant, Andreozzi explains, can be anyone with a strong interest in the health of the state’s wildlife and forests and a willingness to commit at least 40 hours of volunteer work in the coming year. Some have been owners of large parcels of land while others serve as members of Conservation Commissions or Planning Boards. Clyde has found that most Coverts graduates have gone far beyond the required 40 hours of service, creating one of the most knowledgeable, experienced groups of volunteers working to carry out Extension’s mission.
The intensive three-and-a-half day session will feature up to 20 presenters, including state and local experts in wildlife and forest management, Cooperative Extension specialists, representatives of state and local land trusts, and Coverts alumni from past sessions. In lectures, demonstrations and field tours of natural areas, participants will learn about topics with both far-reaching implications and immediate applications, such as wildlife and forest ecology, habitat management, land conservation and community conservation planning.
Once trained through the Coverts Program, participants become members of a statewide network connected through newsletters, field trips, reunions and workshops—in effect, long-term members of a knowledgeable team of hard-working advocates with a stewardship ethic.
Participants are selected based on their community involvement, communication skills and enthusiasm and willingness to volunteer their time and apply their newfound expertise. “We’re looking for people who are committed, who have more than a fleeting interest in the topic,” says Malin Clyde, currently an Extension Specialist, but who coordinated the Coverts Workshop for the past thirteen years.