From Texas to The Tetons

By M. F. Mejia

In the summer of 2014, I was selected to participate in the Rising Land Ethic Leader Program hosted through the Aldo Leopold Foundation and The Murie Center.

It was an amazing opportunity as my family and I journeyed from my hometown of Laredo, Texas to The Murie Center in Moose, Wyoming.  I attended the 31st program hosted by the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Like many new adventures, I was a little intimated to make the drive to an unknown area to myself. Wyoming is the farthest north I have ever been. Luckily, according to the locals, we went during the hottest part of the summer, with nights reaching about 40°F (still pretty chilly for a south Texas native like me).

Mejia Birthday Teton by C.Sandoval

Mejia Birthday. Photo by C. Sandoval

 

At the Rising Land Ethic Leader Program, I learned more about Aldo Leopold, Estelle Leopold, Luna Leopold, Olaus Murie, and Mardy Murie. It was an experience to learn more about these individuals and their contributions to conservation, The Wilderness Act, and their literary and art works.  Being a woman, I was most fascinated to learn about Estelle and Mardy and how their efforts contributed to conservation.  I was even more curious to learn about the dynamics between Estella and Aldo Leopold, as I learned their love story. Her family was originally from Mexico, but were prominent ranchers in New Mexico. Aldo had met Estella while he was stationed in the Gila Wilderness, where he began his work as a conservationist. I learned so much about the people I admired, and was amazed to have such a connection with each individual.  In writing this, I tried to describe the connection I felt with Aldo, Estella, their children, Olaus and Maurdy but perhaps that connection can only be felt through the land, any land.

I grew not only as a professional but on a personal level as we defined, discussed, and sought ways to implement Aldo Leopold’s evolving land ethic in our communities.  I made some amazing friends in different organizations throughout the country and gained the skills and tools needed to successfully carry on environmental and conservation work. Although I am trained as a wildlife professional, the skills gained through this program are necessary to understand an evolving public to better manage natural resources.

Mejia Teton by C. Sandoval

Mejia in the Tetons. Photo by C. Sandoval

Upon my reflection of attending this amazing program, I thought of how the land ethic could be implemented not only in my community, but also how it would evolve to fit the future. I happened to run across “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations & Government Agencies” by Dorceta E. Taylor, Ph.D., where I was surprised to learn about Robert Stanton. Robert Stanton was the first African American who served as Director of the National Park Service from 1997-2001.  His career in the park service started in the summer of 1962, where he traveled from Texas to the Tetons, just as I had. I felt the blog title, fitting for my experience and newly acquired knowledge of Robert Stanton. I hope that as conservationists, we take into the account our nation’s changing demographics in our evolving land ethic, so that we manage and conserve not only for natural resources but the cultural resources that come with using our natural resources.

I am grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Conservation Training Center, Ralph K. Morris Foundation and The Association of Natural Resource Scientists for funding me to attend this professional development opportunity and encourage others to attend the Rising Land Ethnic Leader Program the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Mejia Birding Teton by C.Sandoval

Mejia Birding. Photo by C. Sandoval

 

This post was originally posted on the A Day in the Life of Masi. Maria Masi Mejia is a Latino Outdoors Outings Specialist and Ambassador in Lubbock, Texas. You can reach her at mmejia@latinooutdoors.org.

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