I’m not a life-long hiker. Never backpacked. Didn’t get to travel the National Parks growing up, with the exception of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I moved from the DC Metro area to southwestern New Mexico in 2008. I continued to work until late 2013 but began to get out into the local landscape and learn about the wild lands I now called home. I became a wildlife tracker for a Tucson-based non-profit, and a volunteer for another conservation non-profit helping to conduct wilderness inventories to support potential wilderness designations in the National Forest. If you had told me in 2008 that in a few years, I would sit around talking scat and tracks, canyons and trails, and miles hiked, I would have fallen over laughing.
My experiences with tracking, hiking and driving the back roads of the Forest, not to mention the community of which I’m now a part, have changed me in very fundamental ways. Confidence in my ability to meet challenges. Pride in the contributions we have made to the preservation of wild lands and documentation of critters that help protect them.
All of these experiences have taken place on public lands. NM is rich with public lands that belong to all of us. Most western states are equally rich. We as a country are rich in our ownership of public lands. As a direct result of my experiences, I have become a public lands advocate.