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Junior Ranger Spotlight

Las Cruces Girls Become Public Lands Ambassadors

Student works on her journal.

Kids completed journals as part of the day camp.

In the summer of 2016 the BLM, in partnership with Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, City of Las Cruces’ Museums, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Las Cruces Public Schools worked with teachers to identify and recruit girls from the local community that might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a summer camp and were enthusiastic about the opportunity to get out and explore. The students wrote an essay, poem or drew a picture that conveyed the reasons they should be chosen for the camp. Twelve girls were selected as participants.

The camp’s focus was to take the girls on outdoor expeditions in the public lands of southern New Mexico. They would visit a wide array of landscapes and different environments, traveling from sand dunes to forests to caves to jagged mountains. The expectation was that the girls would gain a better appreciation of the adventures and learning opportunities they have right in their own backyard. Additionally, a variety of professionals and scientists (when possible utilizing female mentors) engaged with the girls on a daily basis; demonstrating career opportunities available in natural resource agencies and serving as acting as positive role models in the local community.

Participant activities included:

  • Visiting the BLM’s Aguirre Springs Campground where the girls learned about local reptiles and their environment from a New Mexico State University herpetology professor. Then an artist came to teach the girls about nature journaling – which they kept up all week.
  • Visiting Prehistoric Trackways National Monument where they trekked out to see 280 million year old fossils and followed it up with a visit to the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science.
  • Visiting BLM’s Fort Stanton Snowy River National Conservation Area – where they virtually explored the world of caving and learned about the science and research that takes place there.
  • A trip to White Sands National Monument and Lincoln National Forest where they were led by female park rangers and naturalists.
  • A day in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument where they explored, hiked, and journaled. 

The camp ended with a barbeque in which the camp participants, and their families, were invited. This allowed the girls to share their experience with their family members and introduce them, as citizens and members of the local community, to the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument and the other public lands all around them.

Girls at Dripping Springs Natural Area

Girls at Dripping Springs Natural Area – Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.

Project Objectives

  • To expose girls to the outdoors and the public treasures they have around them while instilling confidence in getting outdoors.
  • To engage a variety of professionals from local land management agencies, and scientists from local institutions, to mentor the camp participants and model the variety of possible career opportunities.
  • To demonstrate that that the public land around their homes and community is a living landscape and an outdoor classroom.
  • To Instill in the girls a sense of ownership and community stewardship of the land.
  • To make life long ambassadors for the public lands.

Getting their EKiP pass.

The girls received Every Kid in a Park passes as part of the day camp. 

Outcomes

The camp was an outstanding success. For the majority of participants not only was this their first chance to visit the amazing natural wonders found just beyond their community, it was their first opportunity to engage with their public lands on a deep and meaningful way. It’s possible that each of these girls will truly become “lifelong ambassadors for public lands.”

 During the camp’s family barbeque an aide for United States Senator Marten Heinrich read a letter of support for the camp. An exert from it stated, “I take great pride in our public lands and try to visit them with my family as often as I can. I hope you feel this pride now, too, and will share your experience with your families, friends and neighbors. Your roles in preserving areas is important, and this week can be the start of your help in making sure kids in the future have the same chance to enjoy these area as you do today. As you continue in school I hope you will consider a career in managing our public lands. Whatever your interests are, it is likely that you can help promote both our wild area like national monuments and working lands, such as ranches.”

Next Steps

To build on the successes of this first year project the BLM and its partners are actively working to secure funding, and build community support, to continue and expand the Public Lands Ambassadors’ EKiP Girl Camp. By actively utilizing existing educational programs and partnerships to engage traditionally underserved audiences this program is laying the foundation to create greater community engagement and stewardship for the public lands of southern New Mexico. 

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