Watershed Academy 1st Class Graduates!
River Source staff expanded capacity to plan and implement environmental restoration work for the summer of 2020, supervising six interns for a 84-hour intensive experience over the summer. Youth crews completed watershed restoration, revegetation, and erosion control projects at five sites ranging from Pecos National Historical Monument to El Rito Campgrounds in northern New Mexico.
The COVID pandemic significantly altered the plans for this project which initially focused on working with nearby tribal communities. The strict closure of the Pueblos prevented that possibility which led to a pivot towards recruiting interns in the local Santa Fe area. Seven interns applied from public and charter schools including Capital High, Santa Fe High, Monte del Sol and Academy for the Technology and the Classics. Five interns were paid with funds from NMF-LANL/MSC and a 6 intern was paid from in-kind funding from the Truchas Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
River Source exposed the students to a broad range of experiences to the broad diversity of northern New Mexico ecological landscapes, cultural diversity, economic dynamics, and policy issues related to community and watershed resilience. Students collaborated with land managers and implemented service projects at Pecos National Hisorical Monument, El Rito Ranger District, City of Santa Fe (2 sites), and at the Herrera Research and Experiment Station on south Highway 14 near Lone Butte. Topics included stormwater management, fluvial geomorphology, lop and scatter techniques for forest thinning, stream ecology, and policy issues related to climate change, cultural resilience, and traditional knowledge.
Crew gatherings were held under a strict COVID19 protocol that interns were empowered to enforce including giving feedback to supervisors and co-workers when they were observed not following guidelines. Each intern was provided multiple KN95 masks, face shield, hand sanitizer bottles, and rubber gloves. We adapted a Youth Conservation Crew / Wildlife Firefighter protocol from the Forest Guild (Attachment 1) that is now used for all River Source programming.
Students reflected on their experiences at the first annual Watershed Academy Graduation 2020. Lauren Clinton said, the Academy prepared her and other interns to be “missionaries ready to spread the knowledge about the environment among a population that so desperately needs it.” Every one of the interns demonstrated a unique response to the question about what the internship meant to them, but they all broadly felt the experience helped them focus on what they are passionate about related to caring for the earth. Plus they made good friendships and earned much needed revenue to support themselves and their families.
River Source intends to continue offering the internship opportunity in subsequent years and developed several systems for ensuring the legacy of this kind of work. We adapted Wilderness Firefighter protocols for YCC crews that are now the standard operating procedure for River Source field events (see protocol attached). We also have successfully fundraised to host two paid interns through the current school year to assist us in our work.
With major funding from the Los Alamos National Labs Major Subcontractors Fund at the New Mexico Foundation.