Soil & Water

Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to roam along the creek behind her house. She loved the water, the trees, the flowers and even the rocks and dirt.

That girl was me, and still is me! Fast forward to today, and I am teaching about the great outdoors for a living. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Laura McCann and, as of Aug. 1, I am the new environmental education program manager for the Valencia Soil & Water Conservation District.

Laura McMann

As many local teachers and students know, my work will be centered at the district’s Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area.

Although you will often find me at Whitfield, in the very near future you will also spot me in classrooms across our district. One of my goals as an environmental educator is to reach out to our schools to facilitate local outdoor science learning, especially along the riparian bosque ecosystem along our portion of the Rio Grande.

I recently left my job as an elementary school teacher, where I realized that classroom learning is enhanced by getting outside and learning more about the world around you. I know many of my fellow educators in the schools would agree.

As a resident of Valencia County since 1995, I am thrilled to work with my community to conserve our beautiful region of New Mexico. On Oct. 22, the district will offer a workshop for teachers using our Bosque Education Guide. We are also planning a fun and educational outdoor public event for Saturday, Oct. 29, “Fall Festival & Whitfield Under the Stars!”

That evening, VSWCD will have a live owl presentation, telescopes for viewing the night skies and so much more. Visit our website, valenciaswcd.org, for updates on these and other events.

Many of you may recognize me from another area of my life. I have done live birds-of-prey presentations as a wildlife educator and raptor specialist for the last 20 years. I have done programs all over the state, including at several of our New Mexico State Parks.

It is an honor to work with these amazing birds of prey native to New Mexico. Now, in my new position, I will be able to expand the scope of my teaching to include all aspects of our habitats in the district, which includes all of Valencia County, Isleta and Laguna Pueblos, and northern Socorro County.

I hope you will stop by our visitor’s center to say hello and take a nature walk at Whitfield. If you are a teacher with any of our schools (public, charter, private, or home-school) and would like to have me join you in your classroom for lessons on the environment and guide your classes in hands-on science learning at Whitfield, please call me at 505-864-8914 or email me at lauramccann@valenciaswcd.org.

My final note today regards the Valencia Soil & Water Conservation District’s financial assistance program. Did you know we support conservation practices by the public in our community? Do you have a project that promotes conservation in our varied landscapes (rural, urban, rangeland, agricultural land, etc.) located within the Middle Rio Grande Valley’s floodplain, uplands or mesas?

If so, please visit our website, valenciaswcd.org, to learn about our competitive programs that offer reimbursement of costs for projects such as hoop houses, rain harvesting systems, high-efficiency toilets, and bioreactor composting systems. The district is accepting applications for financial assistance now.

The deadline for Standard Conservation Project applications is Friday, Sept. 30. Additionally, stand-alone conservation practices are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.  VSWCD also offers residents two free soil tests per year per site. You bring in the soil, and our experts will test it and let you know how to improve it. For access to any of these applications, please visit our website.

I would like to thank our district Director Andrew Hautzinger and our board of supervisors for giving me the opportunity to serve our community in my new outdoor classroom. I’m excited to work with all of you in our community to provide education to current and future stewards of our beautiful Middle Rio Grande bosque and of the surrounding mesas and rangeland throughout our district. Hope to see you soon!

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By Laura McCann, guest columnist