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Wild About Utah: Hispanic

A robin redbreast perches on a tree branch.
Will Elder
/
US National Park Service

This WAU is intended to honor a very special demographic in our state. We have labeled them Hispanic, or more recently Latinx. I was blessed in my early Michigan years with neighbors of this nationality who enriched my live in many ways, including in natural landscapes. They planted a large garden to support their substantial family, some of the produce coming our way, even though they had little to spare. The family patriarch led his flock as minister for the West Side Gospel Tabernacle and found great joy in watching me spit out flaming hot red peppers.

We spent many summers swimming, fishing, frog and turtle catching, bird nest and baby mammal discovering, and reveling in a gravel pit, which had dipped into an aquifer creating some life-filled ponds surrounded by willow and cottonwood trees. This family was a major influence on whom I’ve become, with a special fondness for their rich culture and our natural surroundings.

As an educator, my Latinx students have shared their knowledge and talents on many occasions. Their leadership role for our Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual crews building trails, fences and invasive plant control in our parks and forests has been a joy to be a part of. On one of our outings, a student revealed how saliva can quickly subdue the pleasantries of a stinging nettle encounter. I’ve found the senior members frequently have vast native plant knowledge from their homelands, so we have a lively exchange while they compare our local plant virtues with theirs found south of the border.

As seasonal faculty for a Colorado State University program, we recruit underserved college students from numerous campuses both in and out of country, many of whom are Hispanic. We take them into the national parks, beginning with Teton and Yellowstone. The students are engaged in various citizen science activities including pica and bat surveys, native plant restoration and pollinator transects. They meet with park administration, and are invited to share thoughts on how to manage their parks in a sustainable manner.

The parks have gained in many ways from their presence, and have adopted some of their ideas. Additionally, these students have added considerably to the parks databases from their inventories and pollinator transects. They especially appreciate our diverse collection of students, several of whom have become part of the park and forest staff following the experience.

For those Latinx students and others who have an interest in birds and education, I strongly recommend visiting the Environment for the Americas, an excellent program that connects birds and people from both sides of the border.

Last weekend I offered a Bridgerland Audubon bird outing for Latinx families and others behind the Logan River Estates trailer park. Although none joined us, there will be other opportunities in the future, for I’m fully aware they have interest from many past experiences. This is Jack Greene, and I’m wild about Utah and how it has benefited from our Hispanic people.