Latinos in Conservation

By Andrea Villanueva

Latino Conservation Week (LCW) was created to support the Latino community in getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources. This year Latino Conservation Week was held from July 15th-23rd. For those who live in Las Vegas and its surrounding areas, you might know that temperatures are hitting a record high during the summer. Although Red Rock Audubon Society was unable to do any outdoor activities during LCW due to this heat, we have been making efforts to increase access and inclusivity for our outreach events. 

Earlier in the summer, Red Rock Audubon held its first-ever Beginners Birding in Spanish event at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. During this event, we offered a variety of resources in Spanish such as a “Aves de la Reserva de Aves Henderson” guide and an informational guide of the Bird Preserve for those interested in leading birding events in Spanish in the future. Participants Carlos Reynoso-Reyes and Melissa Gonzalez agreed to answer a few questions about what has inspired them to get involved in conservation. 

Carlos currently works at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area as the Community Volunteer Ambassador. He is also a long-time volunteer at Red Rock Audubon. 

  1. What made you interested in conservation?

“Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve always had love and respect for the outdoors. I enjoy taking hikes and observing different types of terrains that have me engage with the environment. When I first entered college, I wanted to pursue an English degree but, when I began learning about careers in the outdoors it made me have a change of heart.”

  1. Describe your experiences working in the environmental field. Do you have any favorite memories you want to share from your work?

“Ever since I started interning with the National Park Service, I’ve had various opportunities to participate in resource management projects that help conserve our public lands. Earlier this March, I helped assist a 50+ volunteer invasive vegetation removal event that helped change my perspective on the impacts made from conservation efforts. In total, over 1,000 pounds of Sahara Mustard were removed from roughly 3 acres within Lake Mead National Recreation Area. My other huge highlight from my work experiences is the annual Eagle Survey that helped introduce wildlife management projects to me. Our group was able to observe and monitor 48 Bald Eagles (adult/juvenile), 44 burros, 11 Bighorn Sheep, and 1 Peregrine Falcon that helps gather important data about the various wildlife we have in our park. Translating one of my hobbies into a professional arena felt really rewarding because I’ve never really encountered many raptors before during my birding experiences."

  1. What advice do you have for Latinos interested in getting into the field of conservation?

“Some words of encouragement that I have for my fellow Latinx’s is to not don’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone – it’s ok to feel uncomfortable! Both sides of my family immigrated to America in the late 1980’s and have been able to become successful through hard work and perseverance. After observing their dedication to working for their family and learning through the teachings they gave me throughout my childhood, they’ve always inspired me to become someone greater than they were. Even if your dream job or career field seems a little out of place or different from what your family does. If it happens to be similar to what they do, try to connect with those individuals to gain some more insight. If you love the outdoors, follow your passion, and get involved with some volunteer opportunities or look further into that job posting that’s caught your eye!”

Melissa Gonzalez is the owner of Earth Green Landscapes. She specializes in creating pollinator habitats. She is also the chair of the Bird-Friendly Community Committee for Red Rock Audubon. 

  1. What made you interested in conservation?

"My interest in conservation began when I was in college studying Landscape Architecture. I took a deep, meaningful interest in the Henderson Bird Preserve during my studies for my research on this unique place. The story behind this beautiful space was very impactful and it was created into a sacred space because birders back in the 1960s/1970s saw hope, and migratory birds in a reclamation facility, and believed it needed to be preserve and conserve. It took a community, the city to make it into the place we see today, where we can create memories and stories because of their faith in conservation."

  1. Describe your experiences working in the environmental field. Do you have any favorite memories you want to share from your work?

"My impactful experiences in the field, again is the Henderson Bird Preserve. We propagated Cottonwood trees (1 foot tall at the time) along a pond that are now large 20+ feet high trees with canopies giving us shade and shelter when we bird, as well for wildlife too. It’s an evolving story from this experience in the field, and we as people become an understory below the cottonwood trees and the land around us. Wildlife play role on our senses to remember these experiences, from seeing, hearing, the feel of leaves and plants around us, the aromas of blossoms throughout the seasons, makes me feel joy and invited to write new stories."

  1. What advice do you have for Latinos interested in getting into the field of conservation?

"I believe in this saying that goes something like this, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready... The teacher will Disappear.”- Tao de Ching / Follow what you are curious about in the field of conservation and anything that find interesting because they lead you to places, experiences and information you need. It’s an instinct that is gravitates you, listen to that. They are breadcrumbs to our journey in life. Conservation and preservation go hand in hand. Conserve what’s been created especially naturally and preserve and plan for the next generation."

Red Rock Audubon hopes to continue working on creating a safe and inclusive conservation space for everyone to enjoy. As the weather cools down, keep an eye out for more Spanish-speaking events and chances to hang out with your comunidad on our calendar. If you are interested in joining the Latino conservation community check out Green Latinos and Latino Outdoors, which hold many events in the Las Vegas area throughout the year. If you would like to collaborate with Red Rock Audubon for a birding event or would like to get involved in our conservation and outreach efforts, feel free to reach out to andrea.villanueva@redrockaudubon.com