First Month Fly-by

Hello all, from Region 3. This first month as resource assistant has been filled with meet and greets, community engagement and beautiful views of the Sandia mountains. It feels good to be back in my home state, but even better to be connecting with people from the community through my current position. This month i participated in a few community events including: a day drip talking with the Valle de Oro Youth Conservation Corps, a Bosque Education Guide Workshop, and the Pueblo of Isleta Environmental Fair. All three events provided different opportunities to communicate with locals, learn about the natural and cultural history of the area, and participate in nation to nation relations.

These three distinct activities provided a great start during this first month of the program. In my trip with the youth conservation corps crew I was able to connect with the next generation of environmental stewards, gather their perspectives, and check out some great birds in the Sandia Ranger District. The Sandia Mountains are a profound landmark here in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. The name Sandia, meaning watermelon in Spanish, comes from the beautiful hues of pinks, reds, and oranges that wash over the mountains during the sunset hours. The day was filled with activities to learn about different land management agencies, explore career opportunities, and engage in dialogue. With the help of some prompted questions we were able to have meaningful conversations with the participants. I was also able to share these questions with friends and family members and received wonderful and insightful responses. We discussed overcoming barriers to get outdoors, the relevance cultural identity plays in our relationships with the outdoors, differences in exposure to federal agencies, and continuing their passion for conservation. Another great addition to the event was a lesson on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the program their organization and many others are founded on. Starting as work program during the Great Depression this program provide jobs and job skills to young individuals from 1933 to 1942. Work was extensive throughout the United States and many projects were completed on Forest Service and Park Service land; including contracts to make roads, construct fire watchtowers, string telephone poles, among many other projects. Work was extensive on the Sandia Mountain Range and I provided archived Forest Service photographs to help connect the participants during our day spent in the area.

This month I was also able to participate in a workshop hosted by the Rio Grande Nature Center. The workshop was focused on creating and leading educational lessons about the bosque area here in New Mexico. While “bosque” means forest in Spanish, the word bosque in this region is used to denote the riparian area that surrounds the Rio Grande. It was wonderful to connect with educators here in the local area and receive so much wonderful knowledge from the leaders of the workshops. Topics included riparian maintenance and restoration, place-based learning, and cultural history lessons on ecology, agriculture, and caring for the land. I was able to lead a lesson on the topic of “acequias.” Here in New Mexico the word “acequia” has great cultural and historical significance. The Spanish word refers to irrigation canals and drainage ditches that are used for agricultural purposes. However the root word comes from Arabic and acequias were introduced to the Spanish during the Muslim reign in the 8th century. For generations farmers in this region have irrigated their fields using acequias and it was great to relay their significance to educators from all across the country and world who were also participating in the event.

Closing out this busy month included the great honor of participating in the Pueblo of Isleta Environmental Fair. The Pueblo of Isleta is a nation located just south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is one of the larger Pueblo nations located here in the state and was founded in the 1300s. For the past few years they have held an environmental to keep the community involved and provide information of career opportunities, programs, and activities that relate to environmental advocacy here in the Southwest. During the fair my Forest Service colleagues and I tested out a new educational activity that showcases bird beak adaptations by using household tools to “find the right tool for the job.” It was a hit and all those who visited our table love interacting with the activity. We were also able to chat with local community members who shared with us stories of their tenure with the forest service and local leaders who expressed the importance of continuing this fair in the following years. I’m excited to work with Isleta schools in the upcoming months as we were invited to participate in educational lessons this school year!

Wow, have I really been talking that long? Maybe that is why this month has come and gone so quickly. I feel very fortunate to be here, to be a part of the community I work in, and take part in the local events around me. All of my interactions this month have taught me something, whether I was communicating with a 30-year employee of the Forest Service or a student about to start the fourth grade. Until next time!

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