You may have heard of Master Gardeners, Master Instructors, Master’s Degrees, masterpieces, or have a MasterCard in your wallet. But do you know what a Master Naturalist is?

An Idaho Master Naturalist is a person who enjoys nature, outdoor recreation, supporting conservation, and is interested in continually learning more about the natural world around them. It is someone who then channels his/her skills, interests, and energy to volunteer at nature centers, help biologists collect data, monitor wildlife, assist at parks and natural areas, help with fishing or hunting clinics, participate in habitat projects, or contribute to many other conservation-related efforts. An Idaho Master Naturalist can be a teacher, farmer, hunter, angler, birdwatcher, retired professional, or homemaker-- perhaps you!

The High Desert Chapter of the Idaho Master Naturalists is now recruiting new members and will hold an open house and introductory meeting on Thursday, February 13. The meeting starts at 6 pm at the Southeast Regional Fish and Game Office located at 1345 Barton Road in Pocatello.

To earn the title of Idaho Master Naturalist, an individual completes 40 hours of hands-on training in areas focused on Idaho’s ecology, plants, animals and natural systems taught by experts in their fields. You don’t need to have an education or background in science, just the desire to learn and the enthusiasm to volunteer.

This first class is free of charge. For interested individuals who desire to become certified Idaho Master Naturalists, additional trainings/classes will be offered. The total cost for the certification process is $80.00 per person to cover supplies and materials. And, later in the year, much of the training will be spent outside in the great outdoors!

In the US, there are over 30 states with Master Naturalist programs. To date, Idaho has eight Master Naturalist chapters throughout the state, including the High Desert Chapter here in southeast Idaho. And, interest in starting new chapters is growing.

Though Idaho Fish and Game coordinates the state’s Master Naturalist Program, it is not solely a Fish and Game program. It is a program that belongs to the volunteers who drive it and donate their services to various agencies, organizations, and communities throughout Idaho.

So what does this program mean for Idaho?

Idaho Master Naturalist Program aims to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to actively work toward stewardship of Idaho’s natural environment. Furthermore, agencies like Idaho Fish and Game benefit from having skilled volunteers like Master Naturalists in the community. Volunteers are not only critical to completing important projects and tasks, their donated hours often serve as match for securing grants and other funding sources. Simply put, volunteerism helps Idaho Fish and Game and other agencies stretch their dollars further and do their jobs better.

If you would like more information on the Idaho Master Naturalists Program, the upcoming training in Pocatello, or if you have a need for these specialized volunteers, please contact Tessa Atwood at the Southeast Regional Fish and Game Office in Pocatello at (208) 232-4703 or visit the Idaho Master Naturalist webpage at https://idfg.idaho.gov/master-naturalist.

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