The outdoors are woven into New Mexico's culture and rooted into its history and traditions. But for many Hispanic and underprivileged youth in New Mexico, they never get to fully understand nor appreciate the beauty of the outdoors and its connection with their own history. We want to change that.
The Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project is an initiative of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, and Latino Outdoors, three nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations dedicated to the conservation of public landscapes for future generations through education and advocacy. The central focus of the Nuestra Tierra program is to provide middle school to college-age youth throughout New Mexico with meaningful experiences outdoors, including hiking, fishing, hunting, birding, exploring, learning and bonding – together, and with a sense of culture, self-exploration, reflection, and purpose.
Through the Nuestra Tierra Project, we work to foster life skills on an individual level and as part of a team, leadership skills, an understanding of civic processes and engagement, and an appreciation for our shared culture and its connection to the outdoors.
Nuestra Tierra group leaders and community guides encourage learning through self-discovery. This program gives youth participants the opportunity to share and ask questions about their experiences outdoors. Rather than a prescriptive, limited curriculum and learning experience, Nuestra Tierra group leaders and guides ask youth participants what they want to learn, what they value, and what's important to them. Although each outing includes a specific outdoors activity – hiking, birding, fishing, for example – Nuestra Tierra youth help build their own learning experience during each outing. The real leaders of this group are the youth themselves.
The enchanting landscapes that make New Mexico unique are deeply intertwined with the culture we have today. Our culture goes beyond borders, and beyond American history. Our group leaders and community guides contextualize and interpret the outdoors with an understanding and emphasis on who lived on the landscapes, how they lived, their cultural practices, their history, and what they left behind for us to interpret. A deeper cultural understanding of our landscapes will allow youth to develop a more personal understanding of the land and its ties to us as a community.
a sense of belonging
New Mexico's major and most valuable export is its talent and youth. Although there are much greater contributors to why many of our most talented and hardworking youth seek education and employment out of state, Nuestra Tierra hopes to help youth build a personal connection with the landscapes they call home and encourage them to invest in their community now and in the future. We believe that by creating a strong a sense of community and belonging, we can encourage our youth to pursue careers and volunteerism activities that benefit the communities they live in.
Recognizing that youth bring very different perspectives to their outdoors experiences is an important component of the Nuestra Tierra project. We highly value and seek to activate learning and self-reflection through individual storytelling. We encourage youth to write about their existing and new experiences outdoors and what it means to them. Based on their individual interest, we will publish youth stories on the Nuestra Tierra Blog, which they can choose to share with their friends and family. The people who lived on our surrounding landscapes left behind many clues about their own stories -we want youth to continue this tradition and express what's important to them about their life and their outdoor experiences. In addition to the Blog, the Nuestra Tierra group leaders also record a twice-monthly public podcast focused on Hispanic conservation and youth conservation efforts in New Mexico, and throughout the country. Nuestra Tierra youth who are interested in participating in the Podcast, either as co-hosts or as guests, will be encouraged to tell their stories before a national audience of online listeners.
beyond the trail
Nuestra Tierra youth who are interested in participating in other, smaller group outings or activities, will be welcomed and nurtured. Throughout the year, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, the Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, and Latino Outdoors will offer additional opportunities for youth to stay engaged in the conservation issues that they feel passionately about. These extra activities may include, but are not limited to: being published in a local newspaper; attending a local, state or national conference; going on an overnight camping trip; special opportunities to hunt and fish; opportunities for scholarships and other awards, etc.
Careers in conservation are varied and wide ranging. Career opportunities that get started by first experiencing the outdoors include wildlife biologist, biology instructor, conservation advocacy director, park ranger, zoologist, animal care specialist, botanist, horticulturist, environmental planner, GIS technician, environmental researcher, youth corps director, range specialist, recreation manager, and many, many others. Youth who are interested in these careers will be encouraged and offered guidance on how to pursue their career goals.
Are you a New Mexican Youth or Educational Partner who is interested in learning more about Nuestra Tierra and how you can get involved? Fill out the form below to contact us!