CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Environmental Pro-tection’s (WVDEP) Youth Environmental Program (YEP) presented close to $15,000 in cash awards to groups from around the state for their efforts to better the environment in the Mountain State, with 4 of those groups calling Hampshire County home. 

The awards were presented during the 59th annual Youth Environmental Day on May 21 in Ritchie County, the 1st in-person YEP Day since 2019. 

The Slanesville Mustang Garden took 3rd place in the Gov. Jim Justice Beautification Awards, which is presented to a youth group that prevents litter in the community and promotes clean-up and beautification. The organization received $200 for their efforts. 

Victoria Croucher won the 12-and-up “Go-Mart” essay competition; the essay was titled “Climate Change: How it Affects West Virginia.” 

Boy Scouts Pack 32 won $200 for their community environmental efforts in the form of a District Coordinator Award (Hampshire is District 2), and the Croucher family took 1 more award home for $300: they placed 2nd for the Rhododendron Award, where groups complete projects that answer a specific environmental need. 

 “It was certainly great to be back together in-person,” said YEP Director Annette Hoskins, “and to honor the outstanding efforts of our youth groups and students from around the state. West Virginia continues to benefit from the dedication of these young people and their passion for environmental stewardship.”’

YEP membership consists of 4-H clubs, scout troops, schools and other youth organizations, who complete environmental projects that benefit the state and their communities. Some of those projects include tree plantings, roadside litter and stream cleanups, recycling drives and environmental education.

During the past year, YEP groups worked nearly 40,000 hours to recycle more than 10,000 pounds of aluminum, 57,000 pounds of plastic, 61,000 pounds of steel and 75,000 pounds of paper. They also planted 629 trees, more than 1,900 flowers and cleaned up 126 miles of roadways, in addition to community areas and streams. Groups collected 996 bags of trash. 

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