McKenzie Co. 4-H Range Judging Team Named '23 National Champions

The McKenzie County 4-H Range Judging team came home as national champions after attending the 2023 National Land and Range Judging Contest in El Reno, OK. The contest was held May 2-4 at the Canadian County Expo Center. The team consists of Paige Delaney, who was named the individual national champion, Ryan Pingel, Luke Smith, Sylvia Boekelman along with Head Coach Morgan Wisness and Coach Devan Leo. Kevin Sedivec assisted with coaching while the team was in Oklahoma.

Range Judging challenges teams and individuals on their knowledge of native and invasive grasses, forbs, trees and shrubs. It also requires knowledge as to if those plants are annuals, perennials, or biennial. They must know which plants increase or decrease under grazing pressure, if it is desirable or undesirable for forage for cattle and grouse, and if each plant makes adequate cover for grouse.

"Ecological sites are a part of range judging. Those sites are marked off and then the 4-Hers assess the plant matter in the site and determine desirable vs. undesirable," explained Leo. "They then estimate percentages of each within the site. Those percentages then help them calculate if this eco site needs to be adjusted in any way if it's not desirable for livestock and grouse."

Judging is based on points and each plant is worth ten points for correctly identifying it and naming its characteristics; if the plant is misidentified, no points are awarded. Plants are denoted with marker flags and individuals work two plant lines, consisting of ten plants per line. They then judge three ecological sites. Each judging is done individually and the top three scores from each team are combined for the team score.

In the long term, Range Judging is a great foundation for anyone interested in becoming a range scientist, ecologist, or any other field that would require someone the ability to "read" the range in order to make appropriate management decisions.

The McKenzie County National Champion Range Judging team was welcomed home and celebrated by their community for all of their hard work and knowledge.


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