Hello from the Southwest and Cheers to the Road Ahead!

5 July, 2023

Hello everyone! I hope your holiday went well and you could take time for yourself. I am writing from Belén, New Mexico – smack dab in the middle of the state. About 30 miles south of Albuquerque, which you may have seen on TV in Bugs Bunny or Breaking Bad. I’m glad to be back in New Mexico after being all over the United States and Spain for the past few years. As you may have seen in my introduction video, I am the Conservation Education Resource Assistant for the Region 3 Cooperative Education Department. 

So what is “cooperative education?” In each region, there is an initiative to connect with, work alongside, and engage the public in ways that meet the national mission of the US Forest Service (USFS) and gear programs toward the objectives of the region in question. Here in Region 3, the area includes Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Texas and Oklahoma. For Region 3, that includes serving as the “public’s steward, {joining} forces with communities in sustaining Southwestern Forests and Grasslands.” Specifically, this includes focusing on regional vitality, national prosperity, and international ecological connection through; 1) organizing public events to spread information on USFS careers and current affairs, 2) creating educational toolboxes that educators and employees can use in classroom and outdoor settings, 3)  engaging with the community – connecting and serving as a positive image to all the USFS does

It may seem like a lot, but it’s an important job, especially here in the Southwestern United States with its unique natural and cultural history. An arid climate can cause various challenges, and maintaining habitats and environments is no small task. That’s why it’s important to connect with the public here in the region to inform them of natural resource use, proper recreation, environmental stewardship, and preventative measures needed to keep the National Forests and Grasslands going strong for all of us! Furthermore, the Southwest is a cultural hub and a wealth of rich history. The people have worked with and on these lands for centuries in ways that have an immense cultural significance for those who call this area home. We depend on the resources, which requires a responsible and responsive land management approach that is equitable for everyone. 

Did you know that there are 55 Tribes and Pueblos within the boundary of the Southwestern Region? That’s an incredible number and amount of diversity in such a concentrated area! That means it is essential to communicate and work alongside these sovereign nations with whom the region shares stewardship of the land. In the coming weeks, my colleagues and I will attend the Pueblo of Isleta Environmental Fair in Isleta, NM. I’m super excited to attend this event and participate in the activities our department has been planning. This year we are doing a “Birds and Beaks” interactive exercise that helps young students visualize the effects of evolution and its role in giving birds the “right tool for the job.” It will also be a great chance to exchange educational information with community members!

Next time, I’ll let you all know how the environmental fair went and all the great stuff happening. Until then, I hope you’re happy and healthy wherever this post finds you!

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