Range of Opportunities
CALS student hopes to utilize the range in future career
Marie Mellick has always felt a strong connection to the land, and to the University of Idaho.
A descendant of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Mellick grew up in Worley, Idaho, where she was heavily involved in 4-H. Choosing to attend U of I was an easy choice. She remembers being on campus from a young age to attend football games and participating in the UI Extension 4-H State Teen Association Conference. Her sister, Christine Mellick, graduated from the College of Law in 2017, becoming the fourth person from her family to earn a degree from the University of Idaho.
Mellick is studying agricultural science, communication and leadership in the U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Her goal is to gain the skills she needs to return to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and support her community.
Using the Range
Mellick first began to think about how the tribe could use rangeland in a way that benefits the entire community when she was a senior in high school. She remembers standing in her father’s office, looking at a map of all the lands the Coeur d’Alene Tribe owned. Her father is the Head of Realty for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe where he manages all tribal-owned land and takes care of farm ground leases.
“Right now, some of the land is in CRP or being leased out to farmers, but I believe that we should be using our resources to benefit the community as much as we can,” Mellick said.
Mellick’s goal after she graduates is to establish a cow-calf operation that uses unused rangeland owned by the tribe and provide further opportunities for tribal members. The herd would belong to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.
“A cow-calf operation would benefit the whole tribe,” Mellick said. “It would be able to make money for the tribe, potentially help fund a youth livestock program, branding of products, and add to the current tribal foods program.”
Gail Silkwood, UI Extension Educator for Benewah County, believes in the impact this program could have on the tribe and Mellick’s ability to achieve her goal.
“It will be of benefit by creating a healthier ecosystem that has lower fire danger, weed infestation and range overgrowth as well as providing affordable nutrition and financial support to the community. Her intent to use these animals as a teaching and youth support herd are a bonus,” Silkwood said. “I know she will be successful in achieving them because when she sets her mind to it, there isn’t much she can’t accomplish.”
Gaining Knowledge Through 4-H
When she was 8, Mellick joined the Worley 4-H Club. Her first projects were horse and dog and later she joined the Liberty Butte Hustlers 4-H club in Plummer, where she showed goats and cattle at the Benewah County Fair and North Idaho State Fair.
“I met a lot of really supportive people that helped me a lot to get to where I am,” Mellick said.
Mellick was only one of a handful of 4-H members that were also affiliated with the tribe.
“It’s a lot of money up front to start a livestock project and isn’t easily available for tribal youth, so not many are able to get involved,” Mellick said.
Mellick would like to encourage more 4-H participation in young tribal members and overcome financial obstacles by allowing them to purchase their 4-H projects from the tribal herd.
“4-H gives tribal youth the opportunity to use their time in a constructive way and give them responsibilities. It introduces them to new friends and exposes them to good influences,” Mellick said.
This is not the first endeavor Mellick has taken to increase 4-H participation in tribal youth. For her senior project in high school, she drafted a grant proposal for the tribe to purchase livestock equipment for youth members to use in 4-H projects. By providing some of the equipment for these projects, Mellick hoped to help overcome some of the barriers of participation. While she did not receive the grant, Mellick is still motivated to secure opportunities for tribal youth.
“I want to give youth the opportunity to raise livestock and work to bring more people to 4-H who have not had those options in the past due to their circumstances,” said Mellick.
Article by Liz Bumstead, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Published in May 2018