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As a Director of an Overnight Summer Camp in Wisconsin for over 20 years, I have seen a change in how parents deal with their children. Obviously,  when I was a kid my parents spent alot less time worrying about me. Oh sure I was loved but I was given time to figure stuff out on my own even if that meant small failures or getting in trouble. But more importantly, I was given something we all want more of TIME. Yes, my parents did not schedule me in after school sports, tutoring or band. No, in my day I played with friends, watch an 1hour of TV per day (now they say the average kid is 8hrs on a screen) and figured out things to keep myself busy. Yet, with all this time on on my hands, something was bound to come out of my mouth "MOM, I'm Board" and the her response was almost always the same "Go Outside". Today, parents hear the "I'm Board" much less, because kids just pick up a screen and stay entertained for hours. I was speaking with a substitute teacher the other day and she said its so much easier now that 10 years ago.  I have almost no discipline issues because when students finish their online in class assignments they pull out their phone and keep engaged, causing less classroom flareups.
Research is showing this may be a bad thing, see below article. I am an Outdoors Summer Camp activist and for years said, WE ARE ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY! Only recently have others picked up on this and are telling us to put down our phones... And do what Mom said "Get Outside"!

Child psychologists insist that boredom is an enriching experience.

With the rise of screen time and “helicopter parenting”, i.e. hovering, we’ve seen a decline in the good-natured negligence that many of us were raised with during the 80’s and 90’s, which consisted of “go outside and play, now.” Parents nowadays feel pressured to turn their children into productive little performers, by filling their time with camps, sports, lessons and play dates. And while there are advantages too, say, learning to play the piano, researchers insist that the absence of planned activities is also an enriching experience. The best thing you can do for your kids this summer? Let them be bored.

“Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy,” explains Lyn Fry, child psychologist, “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

For the same reason that mindfulness has spread like wildfire among the wellness community, children also need to learn strategies to contend with the fast-paced, virtually-ruled nature of modern society. We also know, as adults, that being stripped of our televisions, iPads, and obligations are bound to offer a refreshing perspective and force us to interact with our surroundings in a new and different way.

Certainly, it is tempting, and perhaps we have been conditioned to feel that being bored is a waste of time. Not so— idleness is integral to allow our imaginations to grow. Dr. Teresa Belton, a visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia told the BBC that boredom is crucial for humans to develop “internal stimulus,” which, in turn, cultivates true creativity.

“There’s no problem with being bored,” says Fry. “It’s not a sin, is it? I think children need to learn how to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done. Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant.” Another way this helps kids is by eliminating the cycle of seeking validation for every little thing they do. Throwing out expectations is a tool to help kids truly know themselves and their preferences, and become more individually confident.

This summer, take away the screens and let kids simply do their own thing, such as playing with their toys in their room or outside in the yard. Experts also encourage writing a list of activities with children, including basic past times such as riding a bike, playing cards, drawing with sidewalk chalk, painting or reading a book. When your children approach you complaining of being bored, remind them to refer to the list. They’ll thank you later.

True Activist / //www.trueactivist.com/the-best-thing-you-can-do-for-your-kids-this-summer-let-them-be-bored/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Report a typo

2017 header friends

Enjoy a Summer Camp In the USA


The Social and Emotional Long-Term Benefits of Summer Camp

 Summer camps help children to foster social relationships without the aid of a parent.

NEW YORK CITY - Children spend up to 180 days in school, not counting weekend functions, school-sponsored extra-curricular activities and socializing with friends. For most kids, it’s a huge part of their world.

Camp offers your child a different environment in which to grow their social skills and expand their friendship circle.

The primary feature of most camps is that they offer recreation and creativity in a structured environment.  That structure usually provides for downtime to just hang out.

Here, are a few of the many positive features of going to camp.


Another Opportunity to Develop Social Intelligence
According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, who coined the term, social intelligence is broken into two parts:

Social awareness is the ability to monitor our inner world — our thoughts and feelings. Social awareness refers to qualities including empathy, attunement to others and social cognition.

Social facility, on the other hand, refers to how we use our internal social awareness to interact with individuals and groups successfully, such as self-presentation, influence and concern for others.

Camp is a key opportunity for kids to develop both sides of their social intelligence by offering them a way to practice becoming adept at socializing by offering them access to many new people and environments.

The more children can practice their social intelligence, the more smoothly they can incorporate the skills for the rest of their lives.

Emotional Challenges
The structure of camp presents an ideal environment for children to build resilience. As I’ve mentioned before in my Mental Wellness column, resilience is having the ability to take failures in stride and retain a positive outlook on life and one’s abilities.

There are a myriad of examples where resilience can be fostered while at camp, whether it be on the losing side of an athletic competition, navigating the social waters of cliques and peer groups, or (in the case of sleep-away camp) not being able to lean on a parent’s intervention, thereby learning to “smooth” things out on one’s own.

Camp also allows children to experience the full range of emotions in relationships in a compressed time frame of several days to several months. Children get to experience the nervousness, excitement and, eventually, the sadness that comes from making new friends, connecting with those friends and then having to say goodbye at the end. This experience will repeat itself over and over again across one’s lifetime and it is a different experience from the cycle of the academic year.

Expanding the Definition of “Who I Am”
For good or for bad, we often times get labeled early in our lives as an athlete, an artist, musician, as gifted or talented, as a “brainiac,” or other, more derogatory, things.

After I finished graduate school, I worked at an academically-oriented summer program for high school kids, located on a major college campus. It was a very LGBT-friendly environment, and many of the LGBT students expressed that they felt most like themselves at this program. This was in stark contrast to their school experiences where they felt they had to “hide” their true selves, due to fear of judgment, ridicule or violence. The students were very grateful for this camp.

Like those LGBT teens, kids of all kinds can find a place to expand or change their label at the right camp.

In the age of specialized summer camps, children who excel or have an intense interest in a subject can spend their summers exclusively pursuing their passions. A secondary gain from this is that the other kids attending camp are also the ones labeled in the aforementioned ways back home. As a result, your child can be defined less by their passion, or what they “do,” and more by their character and the other traits that go into their “true” sense of self.

If the child has had negative experiences at school or in their neighborhood, they get exposure to a different world that may feel more accepting, walking away with a belief that there is a place for them in world.

The Investment
Sometimes summer camp can be a costly financial investment for parents, particularly when it comes to food and lodging and travel at camps such as sleep-aways.

But whether it's a free camp or a paid camp, a good one requires kids to invest in their experience, whether it's through their intention to build friendships or their willingness to push boundaries to the unknown.

If a child spends the summer growing their social network, building resilience, developing a positive sense of self which helps them be who they really are, then the money spent on summer camp is a priceless investment in your kid’s future.

archeryOften parents ask: Why is an Overnight Summer Camp the right thing for my child? As a camp owner & director of a summer camp in the Midwest, this seems like an odd question. But then I have to stop and realize, that if a parent has not gone to a summer camp or even if you did go to camp, you might not understand how camp has changed over the years. First, I think it is important that I say, I cannot speak of all camps but I can talk about Swift Nature Camp and other fine Overnight Summer Camps. So over the last 25 years, summer camps have realized they are important in a child's development in 3 main ways. First, they connect kids to nature and then reduce or eliminate screen time. Second, Overnight Camps help children learn interpersonal skills that build confidence as they move into adulthood. Thirdly, free play is a big part of what happens at camp. This day and age kids are so scheduled, they no longer have time to just make up games and goof off and be creative. But what does all this mean to your child? Below are 10 areas your child will benefit from while at camp:



1. Diversity

Far too often we live in our little village or community. Swift Nature Camp exposes kids to people from all over. Last summer we had 20 states and 5 countries represented at camp. This helps kids learn that the world is big and that despite the distance and the difference in cultures, we all want the same thing, to feel cared for, feel safe, have fun. Camp creates a world of peace and reconciliation rather than conflict.

2. Self-esteem

When kids are away from parents, they need to be decision makers. They do this with the encouragement from "Older Brothers or Sisters" - their counselors. We understand kids may make mistakes and that's OK at camp, because we are there to redirect poor decisions to good decisions. Making good decisions and being responsible for yourself builds self esteem.

3. Nature

Most parents agree their children are outside much less than they used to be. This “nature deficit” is causing increased stress and weight gains in our youth. At Swift Nature Camp we get kids outside, teaching them about nature while having fun in it.

4. Independence

Self-development and  independence happen at camp because campers are empowered to be responsible for themselves, with guidance from camp counselors. The day starts with getting ready, which includes brushing your teeth, making your bed and sweeping your cabin. This helps kids learn how to take care of themselves.

5. Leadership

When living in a group, there are times that you will naturally speak up and lead the group. This builds a child's character while providing confidence as they interact with others.

6. Memories

So often kids are in programs to just spend their time. Swift Nature Camp provides children the opportunity to make lifelong memories. Often we hear "Camp friends are my best friends" Why? Because when you live with someone, you become much closer than just seeing folks casually during the day.

7. Friendships

Making friends is a skill that needs constant practice. Camp is a wonderfully friendly place that provides these opportunities. At SNC our campers tend to know most if not all of the other campers within a few short days. For our older campers it's a time of supporting the younger ones, and for the younger ones, it's a time to trust and ask for help from the older campers. Camp is all about friendships, thus teaching and giving practice to children how to be more socially confident.

8. Exercise

Camp life is filled with a get up – and get moving attitude. Camp is all about doing! Our days are action packed all the time, except for a brief rest period in the afternoon. So whether you are chasing frogs, swimming or shooting a bow , at Swift Nature Camp we are active all the time.

9. Activities

Camps like ours provides numerous activities that can develop into life long passions. Kids can do so many activities that it is just a matter of time till they find the one that's best suited for them. Camp exposes many children to hiking, fishing, sailing, swimming, archery & canoeing all for the very first time. These passions can continue to grow throughout their life.

10. Engagement

Often we just look for something to eat up the time for our kids. Yet, as parents we know we should be doing more, but we are busy and have a life of our own. So, summer camp gives you back your time while assuring you that your child's needs are being met to the highest degree. The number one comment we hear from parent is "what have you done to my child"? We used to get worried, but after all these years of being a camp director, I see that it's just parents' way of telling us that their child has changed for the better during their time with us. We are intentional in what we do and maybe those parents' questions are why we do camp every summer.

If you would like to chat more about Swift Nature Camp or learn more about our Overnight Summer Camp For The First Time Camper please give us a call at 630-654-8036. We would love to help out.

Dear Lonnie & Jeff
I don’t know if I said this to you but SNC changed my life, the time I spent with you guys was easily the most amazing and wonderful I’ve ever had. Been there, in another country, away from my family and friends made me realize how much I love and need them, this experience made me more mature, responsible and (in my parents words) a better man… Thanks to that summer now I’m closer to my Dad, I learnt to forgive problems I had with old friends and what I think it’s the most important thing is to value everything life and God has given to me.


You have one of the best jobs in the world, working for kids it’s a huge blessing and I wish you the best luck for all the upcoming summers (hopefully one of those I will be able to comeback). Keep being awesome and doing everything the way you do because I can tell it’s working not only for campers, but for your staff. Thank you so much, God bless you and Swift Nature Camp.

Thank You Again


To all potential staff reading this, SNC Changed my life it will change yours if you you are open to change. Learn more about Swift Nature Camp

first time campers at summer camp


As the summer approaches many Parents are wondering if summer camp is right for their first time camper. As the Camp Director of a Exclusive program for the first time campers in Wisconsin, we often talk to parents that tell us "their child is not ready”. Obviously, parents know their children best. Yet, often we wonder if this is true or if it is just a parent not understanding the benefits of summer camp. Maybe even being a little bit selfish to keep their child home. Either way what most parents do not understand is that the time that a child has to go to summer is short. At most kids have 9 summers to go to camp as a camper. It goes quick, I know my son will be entering his last summer at a Wisconsin summer camp…and it is hard for me to believe his time has passed.


So why should a first timer at summer camp embrace this experience? Because, the right summer camp can be the ideal first step away from home and family, in a safely created environment for learning independence. Camp provides a break from the ever invasive SCREEN, giving campers a new found freedom. Summer camp prolongs childhood, where a child friendly community promotes fun and joy away from the modern stress for achievement.

A first time camper at an Overnight Wisconsin Summer Camp will be be exposed to fun, friends, nature and activities. Yet, its the Soft Skills that campers discover and develop over the course of every summer that have an impact on that camper starting the very first year.


Overnight Summer Camp Provides:

  • 1. Affirmation:  A simple word of affirmation can influence a child’s life. When we are recognized from outside it can turn into recognition from the inside. Building ones confidence.
  • 2. Art: By nature we all want to create. When a child is free from the pressure of competitive achievement they are free to be creative.
  • 3. Challenge:  When we Encourage a child to dream big dreams. They will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.
  • 4. Compassion/Justice:  Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, we want our children to be active in helping to level it.
  • 5. Contentment:  The need for MORE material things is society is out of control. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can give children is a genuinely appreciation for what they have. This contentment leaves them to find out who they are.
  • 6. Encouragement: Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that a counselor or mentor might choose to speak can offer encouragement and create positive thoughts for a child to build from.  
  • 7. Natural Beauty:  Beauty surrounds us. A forest, a lake, a frog can inspire our children to find beauty in everything they see and in everyone they meet.
  • 8. Generosity: When we live with others we experience generosity. . Generosity is a consistent quality of heart regardless of whether the medium that reflects it is time, energy or material things.
  • 9. Mistakes are accepted: Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of our patience. We need to give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes early, when consequences are so much less severe. We learn more form mistakes than successes.
  • 10. Meals Together: Meals together provide an unparalleled opportunity for relationships to grow, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. Helping children the life skill of conversation and friendship.


So as a parent, ask yourself if you need a team to be part in raising your child. If you say yes,  let your child be a 1st time camper at summer camp in Wisconsin this year. You will be surprised how they personally grow and develops during their adventure at camp. Be sure to see why Swift Nature Camp creates an Exclusive Summer Camp for 1st Time Campers.

1st time overnight campSchool is over and Now Summer Vaction has begun. With increasing knowedge that Millions of children suffer from a lack of outdoor exposure and play. Summer vacation is often seen by parents as the only oppertunity to get their kids off of the dreaded SCREEN.
Tratitional Overnight Summer Camps in the Midwest promote a safe and nurturing place that encourage outdoor play. Yet, Non-sports summer camps build more than sport skills they build important life skills. Overnight summer camp has one the hearts of many, here is what a few famous folks have to say:

"Free play in natural areas enhances children's cognitive flexibility, problem-solving ability, creativity, self-esteem and self-discipline." and that "Children are simply happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for experiences in the out-of-doors," says Richard Louv.

Michael Eisner, past president of Disney in his book "Camp" believes in the summer camp experience. Summer camp provides the right setting for building self-confidence, social comfort, peer relationships, environmental awareness and a deeper sense of values. It is clear that "Overnight" camps result in even higher levels of success in fostering relationships and building life skills.

Traditional Overnight summer camps provide a wonderful opportunity for children's first time at summer camp, because they often offer an non-competitive, non-sports kid a friendly atmosphere that tends to be more accepting. Whether it's a 1 week camp, 2 week summer camp or 3 week summer camp, the opportunity.
Along with the benefits of supervised, outdoor recreation and play, there are other reasons to consider camp as an important part of youth development:
Studies show self-esteem comes from feeling competent and having successful experiences, and youth report significant increases after attending camp. We call this -Building Self-Esteem.

Camps play a critical role in fostering leadership skills by giving young people responsibilities unavailable in other settings, such as self-selecting activities, maintaining camp areas and mentoring younger campers. We call this Building Leadership Skills.

Camps provide fun and positive ways to define and cultivate life skills, whether learning patience through archery, building confidence by zip lining or working as a team playing water polo. We call this Learning Life Skills.

Summer camp teaches youth to be "more green" by connecting campers with their outdoor surroundings and opening awareness for our planet. The Children & Nature Network, an organization that is dedicated to help children experience nature's joys and lessons, supports summer camps as a way to connect children with nature. We call this Getting Kids Outdoors.

Trying new challenges is the key to building self-confidence, research shows 75 percent of campers push themselves to learn new things at camp. We call this Stretching Our Comfort Zones.

Counselors help campers discover how fun the great outdoors can be designing safe, engaging activities that let kids be kids, while teaching valuable life lessons. We call this Having Fun.

Camps create community cultures that minimize social pressures, making campers feel more themselves. Camp fosters an environment for supportive adult relationships, like those between counselors and campers, which research proves is a source of emotional guidance. We call this Developing Quality Relationships.

While the idea of sending kids away to camp may give parents uneasy feelings, the American Camp Association reports the experience of achievement and social connection away from home can nurture a child's independence. We call this
Gaining Independence.
To learn more about selecting the right summer camp for your child see Summer Camp Advice

Overnight Children's Camp arts & craftsNow is the time to Commit! You have heard about all the benefits Overnight Summer Camp can provide a child.  Still, it seems a strange concept to send your child away to Swift Nature Camp and in other people's care. Yet time and time again, parents see that their child returns home different (better) than before he or she left. How can this be? What is this Camp Magic?

As a parent, these are the questions that went through my head as I sent my child to a different overnight summer camp. Does sending my kid away mean I do not love them? Does it mean I am selfish? Does it mean I am a BAD parent?

Actually sending your child to Overnight summer camp means none of these things. Often parents need to hear again all the benefits of summer camp, here are a few:


9. Kids are active – These days a child's life is sedentary in school, online and inside. Every moment at camp is filled with motion, from play to learning or even walking to the bathroom.

8. Experience successes – Camp's main goal is to build kids up. So at SNC we find what kids can succeed and that helps them feel more confident.

7. Gain resiliency – Life is filled with setbacks. At camp setbacks can be handled in a positive way. For instance, a group may have a difficult canoe trip, yet together they persevered and made it. Knowing you can make it is an amazing lesson.

6. Unplug – Technology has taken over our life. No time in history have children been so connected to it. In the old days kids watched TV for 2-3 hours a day now a screen is watched 7-9 hrs a day. Get back to real connections.

5. Independent – This day and age kids are scheduled most of the day. Camp gives children the ability to make choices for themselves. A skill needed in life. Wrong decisions can be gently handled and right decisions applauded by peers and non parental units.

4. Play – In nature animals learn by play. We all love watching the wolf pups play, but they are really getting ready for life. Same is true with children, they learn by having unorganized free play. Something that was a staple in kids growing up in the past. Camp still provides this in a safe, child friendly atmosphere.

3. Social skills – Living in a communal setting, like camp, provides amazing opportunities for children to learn personal skills like, empathy, resolving disagreements, teamwork and healthy communication.

2. Enjoy nature – Kids lives have become an indoor life. Nature is missing and all the research shows this is having a negative effect on today's kids. Higher stress, obesity and insecurity. Nature supports healthy child development and enriches kid’s perception of the world.

1. Friendships–Swift Nature Camp has only one mission to help children be their best. We do this in a fun and supportive way. By building friendships with people that truly care. we help child make better friends. Campers will tell you their best friends are at camp. Why? When you live with people, you learn to accept them, you build tolerance and over time your difference become bonds.  The result is a summer family.


So as you are thinking about the adventure your child will be on this summer, don't rule out the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Swift Nature Camp.

Children's Camp 2095 copySwift Nature Camp a Wisconsin Summer Camp is home to many children each summer with many joining our Dino Club by being at camp for 7 summers. A true Commitment to camp. Yet camp is limited, one can only attend for from 6-15 then your camper days are finished. So what is a camper to do? Our camp like others, offers a Teen Leadership Program (CIT-JC). This program gives camper who love camp a chance to return with increased responsibility. It is their time to see the insides of camp and give back to the community they love. So even before entering college, 16 & 17 year old's get to take some hands on responsibility.  And, this program is not only for SNC older campers, some of our best have been teens who are new to Swift Nature Camp.


Often College is seen as a new beginning for students because their reputations and accomplishments are left behind. Summer camp is often has this same New Beginning as a camper and that is one reason SNC is so special. A Leadership Camp Program also starts afresh, because who you were as a camper does not tell who you will be as a Leader. During a campers time at camp they have seen the great and not so great. They have seen counselors who were super heroes and were their role models. The key is to get a New Leader to find the skills that they once admired and replicate them for the younger kids.  So whats different?  Now, they have opportunity to show initiative and responsibility by performing the duties of a camp counselor.  This provides entry level work experience and gives them a new understanding how camp works.  For some, joining the Leadership Camp means being  accountable and they must report to daily for Leadership class as well as a review of their daily progress. It's kinda like Life School but with hands on application. As a camper camp is all fun and games but being part of this Leadership Training, one sees the never ending work, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with children along with the huge resonsibility, they learn what the work world has in store.


Regardless of whether a teen takes a traditional summer job or some another internship,  they should first consider being at camp in leadership role, it is a life changer.  It puts them in a position to care for others, motivate kids and a learn life skills that are need for the 21st Century. All away from screens and in the beauty of the Northwoods.


Kids summer campEvery summer millions of children go to overnight summer camp. But Why? Oh sure, some parents just need day care. But the vast majority of parents that are thinking about sending their child to overnight summer camp, do not take this responsibility lightly. They do their research by: going to camp fairs, talking to friends, taking camp tours and chatting with references. Why do all this? Because when you select the right Overnight Summer Camp for your child, it will be a life changer and an experience they will want to repeat summer after summer. Maybe thats why children from all around the world come to USA Summer Camps


So how does summer camp change kids lives? Not every camp is the same, so I can only speak about our overnight summer camp. Swift Nature Camp is located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We cater to children 6–15, with a leadership program for our 16 & 17 year old campers. Our small camp blends old-fashioned camp activities on land and water, with environmental and nature learning. Plus we have a camp zoo, where children who love animals can even adopt one while they are at camp.


Here are ways that children’s lives are changed because of camp:

1) Great Staff- When you get young people who are dedicated to kids full time, your child feels it. Camp counselors have boundless energy and enthusiasm- something parents often loose as they get older. It’s like having the best big sister or brother in the world who really cares about you. They want you to be your best. So children look up to these counselors and since they are role modeling positive values, your child will pick those up and bring them home.


2) Communal Living- Yes, your child will be living in a cabin with 5–8 other children of their own age, building new friendships and developing strong new social circles. For most children this is a new experience. When you live with others, you have to be a little less worried about yourself and be thinking more about others. That is part of the natural progression of kids from self to others. Camp pushes them a little further along this road.


3) Nature-This day and age we live our lives inside. There is a big beautiful world out there that children should learn about and they should not be afraid of. All of science is saying, humans need to be connected to their environment, enjoy the beauty of the simple things in life. That’s why at SNC, we often take our kids to the lake to quietly enjoy a sunset.


4) Independence- Today we have so many types of parents, and often we see loving parents that hold their children back, not intentionally. But, sometimes they just don’t see that kids need and want to get out on their own, make decisions on their own and try new things. A Nature Camp is a safe place to try things, make mistakes and move on. This is all part of growing up and camp is the safe and supervised place this takes place.


5) Play is an amazing tool. It helps children get exercise, loose weight and feel better. More important, Free Play can help children resolve conflict, problem solve and be creative. Daily, at camp have 1.5 hours dedicated to free play, where campers can do the activities they want to do. This is like the old days, when children could just go outside and play.


One thing we hear from parents every summer is “I wish I would have sent my child to Swift Nature Camp sooner” you see, childhood is a once-off thing. Too soon it’s over, and you can’t reclaim the years, but you can look back on incredible memories. That’s why summer camp is so important — it’s a fun, positive experience where children can simply be children and have the time of their lives. Overnight summer camp is a vital part of a child’s personal growth and development

It’s the small size and attention to detail that makes camp so successful at promote each child’s personal development. Sending your child to Swift Nature Camp is a gift, one your child will cherish for the rest of their life. Maybe that’s why 92% of our campers want to return each summer to this Wisconsin Summer Camp.

ERNIE SWIFT Picture“First teach the child the value of work, not regimented play...
teach him that a sunset over a verdant countryside has more
intrinsic value than the most costly painting...teach him that
bread comes from the soil and not from the store”
Ernie Swift


Ernie Swift was raised on the windswept prairies of south-western Minnesota. His years on the family farm honed a vivid imagination, and he credited those years with helping him to develop a deep understanding of the importance of conservation. Nature was Ernie Swift’s teacher, he never received a forma college education, yet he rose through and had substantial influence on the conservation movement in the early days. Being one of the first wardens for the State of Wisconsin these days were filled with adventure. . His northwoods arrests included “Machine Gun Frank: McErlane, a couple of the Al Capone gang.  In those early days Ernie was threatened more than once at gun point and even had mobsters show up at his home.


Swift developed a reputation as a fearless game warden in Wisconsin’s northwoods during the 1920s and 1930s. He was seen as a  individualist, and was not afraid to walk alone through cold, dark woods, fields and marshes to uphold the law. Not surprisingly, Swift was not one to stand still,he was unafraid to walk ahead of the crowd as his career and the movement in conservation evolved.

In the 1930s, Aldo Leopold was beginning to build a name for himself as an environmentalist. Swift and he forged a lasting professional and personal relationship. At that time, Swift had left his warden responsibilities and become deputy director of the Wisconsin Conservation Department. In the early 1940s their was a deer management debate within the state. Swift and Leopold agreed that, that scientific research should guide management of the herd and the ecosystem. This did put Swift at odds with old colleagues, but he did what he felt was right not what his friends wanted. It was his work on management of the deer herd that is credited with helping set Wisconsin as a leader  of wildlife management.


In 1947, Swift was appointed director of the Conservation Department, what today is known as the Department of Natural Resources, . He was tenacious trying to preserve and protect Wisconsin's natural resources, In those days, America was young and seen as endless, giving little support for the notion of resource management.


Wisconsin was just the place for Ernie to hone his skills. It was in 1954 that his career leapfrogged to the national level. He was appointed assistant director of the US Fish and
Wildlife Service in Washington, DC. A year later, he moved out of public service. Ernie had always been one to tell it like it is and that just does not mix well with Washington.  When he was offered the the appointment as director of the National Wildlife Federation. he jumped at the chance. For nearly five years, he helped lay the groundwork for the growth of the country's largest conservation organization. His work also helped shape the first U.S. Wilderness Act, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System.

What made  Swift special was his conviction and his ability to communicate with people. It was this knowledge that gave him courage and motivation to become a speaker and writer in favor of the conservation movement.  Swift had influenced many through his essays, articles, editorials, and reports. He wrote regularly for National Wildlife magazine and Conservation News, two of the Federation's periodicals. "The Glory Trail: The Great American Migration and Its Impact on Natural Resources" was written in the late 1950's and historically looked at resource management in the U.S.  In 1967, A Conservation Saga was published an autobiography, only a year before his death.

During his lifetime Ernie Swift received more than 20 awards and citations, he won the Haskell Noyes Conservation Warden Award in 1930, was honored with the Aldo Leopold Medal in 1959, and a Gold Medallion (the first ever given in the conservation field) from the Wisconsin Exposition Department in 1966. Many of his awards are hanging at Swift Nature Camp in Minong Wisconsin


In 1966 The Department of Natural Resources dedicated the YCC camp to Ernie Swift as a Conservation Summer Camp and in 1996 was renamed Swift Nature Camp To learn more about Mr. E.F. Swift, see the Dinning Hall at Camp.

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25 Baybrook Ln.

Oak Brook, IL 60523

Phone: 630-654-8036



W7471 Ernie Swift Rd.

Minong, WI 54859

Phone: 715-466-5666