FRCC student Nick Hagan

Wildlife technology student striving to do his part through conservation work.

FRCC student Nick Hagan has always been one to pursue his passions.

From the time he graduated from Montrose High School in 2002 to the time that the pandemic hit in 2020, Nick was trying to make it in the music industry. “Two friends and I started a rock band in high school, and we continued that for several years,” says Nick, who played bass and sang lead vocals.

In 2006, he moved to Bozeman, Montana, where he continued playing music as a singer-songwriter, always supporting himself by working in bars and restaurants. For five summers, he worked on commercial fishing boats in Alaska.

A Lifechanging Volunteer Experience

In 2019, Nick got involved in a project in eastern Montana to restore the habitat of the sage grouse—a large game bird native to Montana that depends on sagebrush for food and mating ground.

“I joined as a volunteer from the Montana Trappers Association, which I’d been part of since about 2016,” he says. He enjoyed the experience so much that when another volunteer mentioned a training that Nick could complete in Utah to pursue paid work in habitat restoration, he registered right away.

Studying Conservation

“The idea of working in a job that would allow me to help wildlife while working outside really appealed,” says Nick. He completed the introductory program in restoring riverscapes at Utah State University in fall 2019.

Shortly thereafter, a visit to his parents in Fort Collins led him to discover FRCC’s associate degree in Wildlife Technology. “My mom deserves the credit for showing me the program online. I enrolled to start in the spring 2020 semester.”

Finding His Community at FRCC

Nick’s nerves about being out of school for such a long time were eased after his very first class. “I found a great community at FRCC,” he says. “The people were welcoming and the classes were small. It was a great fit.”

As he moved through the program, Nick also appreciated the hands-on experience his classes gave him. “This program does a great job of getting students into the field, where they can learn about what wildlife and other natural resources professionals do.”

“FRCC’s program is very job-oriented in that they understand that we’re looking to work in this field when we finish,” he adds. “They prepare you to do the work and use the tools.”

Taking On a Leadership Role

At FRCC’s Larimer Campus, Nick is currently co-president of the Society of American Foresters student chapter. He has been instrumental in rebuilding the group after COVID.

natural resources field work

Natural resources faculty members say he’s done a great job of recruiting students for the club, and has found ways to re-organize and re-energize the group. He’s also been networking with other student organizations to make connections and help build community on campus, while strategically planning innovative fundraisers to help the organization meet its goals. 

His hard work and initiative have not gone unnoticed. Nick was just selected as the Larimer Campus’s 2022 Rising Star award recipient from the Colorado Community College System.

A Newfound Passion for Habitat Restoration

Nick is in his final class at FRCC and will graduate this year. His goal is to continue working with an organization like the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), for which he volunteered in Montana. SGI strives to conserve at-risk wildlife and America’s western rangelands.

“I’d like to figure out how I can continue doing habitat restoration work in perpetuity,” he says. “I love working with my hands and seeing how the work we do one year brings back wildlife the next.”

Through SGI, Nick used the same low-tech process-based restoration technique that he also received formal training in at Utah State. That technique even showed up in the curriculum of his wildlife technology program at FRCC.

“The work we’ve done in Montana is getting good results, so I think we have a bright future in hopefully continuing it,” he says.

What Earth Day Means to Nick

Although Nick never expected to end up pursuing a career in wildlife technology after his rock band days, he is grateful and excited about what the future holds.

“I’m one of those people who is dedicated to leaving the Earth better than I found it,” he says. “We’re at a critical time, with climate change and population growth and resource depletion all coming to a head. Earth Day to me is a reminder of the work that needs to be done.”

That work, Nick adds, isn’t to benefit himself. It’s for future generations.

“The wild places we enjoy today are there because dedicated people decided they needed to be protected and kept in a wild state,” says Nick. “I feel it is my responsibility to do my part in the conservation story. That way, when I’m gone, the nature that I’ve loved and enjoyed will be there for other people too.”

Earth Day is About People Too

How can others honor Earth Day?

Nick says it’s important to remember that coexisting on Earth is something every living being has in common. “Our planet is in peril, but there are good things in our lives,” he says.

“We can all celebrate Earth Day by being kind to ourselves and each other. We all live on this Earth together and we all have good things in our lives. That’s why Earth is worth protecting.”

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