Illinois Wesleyan University Student Addresses Forest Service Centennial Congress
February 8, 2005
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - Illinois Wesleyan University sophomore Jessica Farrar grew up
playing in the creek behind her rural southern Illinois home, building forts in the
woods and spending time at her family's lakeside cabin. Involvement with the Girl
Scouts solidified her appreciation for nature, providing her with “life-altering”
wilderness trips to Oregon, Maine and Canada.
When she recently told a gathering of U.S. Forest Service leaders that attention is
needed to continue programs that inspire environmental passion in today's youth, they
Farrar was one of six young people - one of two college students - selected to address
the Forest Service Centennial Congress in Washington, D.C., last month. The event
convened Congressional leaders, agency partners, media and academic leaders, and state
and local representatives to honor the agency's 100 years and assess its future. Farrar
took part in a panel on “Conservation Leaders: Today and Tomorrow,” which drew a standing
ovation from the crowd, followed by a long reception line of professionals offering
praise and pressing business cards into Farrar's hands.
Farrar rose to national attention within the Girl Scouts of America three years ago,
when she won the organization's Gold Award and “Young Woman of Distinction” honor
for her project planting trees to protect the shoreline of J.C. Lake in her home town
of Mt. Vernon. When the Forest Service looked to the Girl Scouts to gain new perspective
at its congress, Farrar was nominated.
She used her speech to alert representatives that two programs influential in her
own devotion to nature - the Kids for Conservation program and the Schoolyard Habitat
Action Grant (the latter provided trees for her Gold Award project) - have disappeared
or are suffering cuts.
“Most youth don't even think about the environment, mainly because they are not introduced
to the outdoors and they are not educated on its benefits,” she told the congress.
“It is important to spark interest from the youth in the ecosystem.”
Farrar later saw a copy of a missive from the Forest Service Chief to his top staff,
which included some key points from her own speech.
“It's really amazing to know I made that difference,” she said. She in turn learned
much about the Forest Service and its efforts to maintain a balance between conservation
and obtaining needed resources.
Farrar found she was well equipped for the experience by a recent course at Illinois
Wesleyan, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” with Associate Professor of English Alison Sainsbury.
Farrar said the course included reading about nature and observation-based assignments.
“It really prepared me to get into the mood of nature and know the background of famous
people who have written on conserving the environment,” she said.
A business administration major, Farrar continues to work with the Girl Scouts. She
interns with the Bloomington-based Centrillio Council and strives to encourage more
involvement among girls in junior high and older.
To discuss her experience with Farrar, contact Ann Aubry or Jeff Hanna at (309) 556-3181.