Growing Up Wild

“Raising a child connected to the natural world fills our lives with meaning. Every day is a reminder to wonder more. The reward is getting to wander more.”

– Ellie Martin, Tensleep Preserve

Five-year-old Livea Martin-Davis was destined to love snow. The inspiration for her name comes from the ecology term sub-nivian, meaning beneath the snow. 

“Even before she was born, she was locked into a life of snow,” jokes her dad Trey Davis, The Nature Conservancy’s Tensleep Preserve manager and the Wyoming Chapter’s land management supervisor. 

Raised on Tensleep Preserve, Livea’s playground in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains stretches over 9,000 acres of deep canyons, bands of ponderosa pines and ancient pictograph sites. 

She loves skiing, splashing in mud puddles and climbing the preserve’s 500 year-old trees. 

Davis remains in awe of Livea’s nature observation skills. She can identify birds by sound, take visitors on flower identification walks and has adept navigation skills. 

“As a land manager, being around a fresh mind has caused me to learn so much about our surroundings,” says Davis. 

Nature Smarts

On the Conservancy’s Heart Mountain Ranch Preserve, managers Carrie and Brian Peters are also raising kids attuned to their natural surroundings. 

Taylor, 5, already knows that invasive plants are “bad” and the importance of eradicating them—a big part of her parents’ stewardship responsibilities on the 13,000-acre preserve. 

 “I’m so impressed by her eyesight,” says Carrie. “She can see an antelope from far away or pick out a tiny caterpillar in the grass.” 

Taylor has been to the top of Heart Mountain’s summit several times on her parents’ backs—and has recently hiked the rugged trail’s entire length herself.

The mountain, says Carrie, provides her daughter with a strong sense of place. “Even on the days we aren’t out and about, Taylor can see Heart Mountain from the window and will ask ‘Can I climb to the top of Heart Mountain again?’”  

Combating Nature Deficit Disorder

With kids today spending less and less time outside, Carrie appreciates that nature is always right out the back door. “We were both raised in rural settings and are so glad our kids are growing up working outside taking care of the land.” 

“Most days are pretty special,” says Ellie Martin, Livea’s mom. 

But the lifestyle isn’t always easy. “We’re isolated. There are no neighbors or children living across the yard to play with. We’re often snowed in during winter months and live in the company of only each other for weeks at a time.” 

And then there’s the hard work—long days in the field and the demanding physical challenges caring for such large landscapes. 

For many land management tasks, the kids can go along. 

Trey carried Livea on his back when she was first born. Now she walks, skis or runs alongside as he completes his daily stewardship activities. 

Carrie and Brian once had to construct a watering tank in a remote part of the preserve and brought Taylor along, setting up a playpen in the shade. 

In the end, these parents remain in awe of how nature fills their lives with discovery, amusement and life-lessons. 

“Raising a child connected to the natural world fills our lives with meaning,” says Ellie. “Every day is a reminder to wonder more. The reward is getting to wander more.”


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