The landscape along the roads leading up to Ruidoso appeared barren, sprinkled with rabbit brush, yucca and cactus.
Nonetheless, I found comfort and beauty in the scenery. Having driven through miles and miles of desert, it seemed to me that the New Mexican desert was unlike anything else. I was enraptured by the colorful dust, the hues of the sunset, and so many other little things. As I began the ascent into the mountains, the landscape unfolded even more splendor transcending from desert to conifer forest.
More than likely, this all comes as no surprise to long-term residents. However, as a recent transplant from Nevada, I was immensely surprised with all the beauty that Ruidoso and New Mexico has to offer. There were little wonders everywhere I looked—a roadrunner following the curve of the road, a red-tailed hawk soaring above, elk and mule deer everywhere.
I never imagined that one day I’d be falling in love with the southwest, and yet, that seems to be the case.
I’d like to clarify that I am no stranger to the desert or the forest. I spent my entire adolescence in the Nevadan Great Basin and it was my upbringing that gave me an appreciation for the desert. In contrast, exploring the national forests or being outdoors was never a high priority for my family.
However, while I was completing my Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Nevada-Reno, I was able to explore the Tahoe National Forest in California and the surrounding areas. I also had the opportunity to work in the southeast Alaskan temperate rain forest as an education intern for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. By the time, I graduated in December, I was enamored with nature and every facet of public lands.
It was this passion that brought me to New Mexico. I was fortunate enough to have been offered a year-long resource assistantship with the Smokey Bear Ranger District Office through the Hispanic Access Foundation, a non-profit organization which seeks to engage Latinos and Hispanics in traditionally underrepresented fields. This opportunity includes the ability to work closely with the wildlife biologist, learn the ins and outs of the U.S. Forest Service, as well as interact and create events for the Spanish-speaking community.
It is my goal to share my perspective with people much like myself—whether it’s newcomers to the area or those that are unfamiliar with the Forest Service or public lands. I am already looking forward to all the field work and exciting community outreach events that are planned for the year.
This includes a new initiative that I will be introducing called Latino Conservation Week (LCW). LCW will take place between July 14 and July 22, and will serve to encourage and engage the community to conserve and explore the outdoors.
These events will be completely bilingual to encourage everyone to disfrutar la naturaleza, enjoy the outdoors. For more information on these upcoming events, stay tuned to the Smokey’s Corner section of the newspaper. I hope that my future articles serve as helpful insight into the happenings on the Smokey Bear Ranger District.
Esmeralda Aguilar is a wildlife intern at the Lincoln National Forest Smokey Bear Ranger District.