Soil & water conservation
The following interview with Duana Draszkiewicz is the second of a series of profiles of women serving on the board of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District.
Q: What inspired you to join the VSWCD board?
A: I responded to an invitation by two VSWCD board members who I consider serving on the board. Some years back, they saw I had stepped up to run for a county-wide office, knew about my commitment to conservation and thought I would be a good fit.
Before joining the board, I had visited the district’s Whitfield Conservation Area, but had no idea of the big scope of work the district has been able to perform for the people it serves in Valencia County, the Pueblo of Isleta and Laguna, and northern Socorro County.
Since joining the board, I have served on the Whitfield committee, the East Valencia Community Gardens committee, and others, joined the leadership team as treasurer, and volunteered at the district office on Thursdays. I am dedicated to building our capacity. On Thursdays, I answer
phones, assist visitors and enjoy a magnificent view of 97 acres of green space before me, while the staff can work uninterrupted.
Q: You always tell people that we all have a role in envisioning and building solutions to our common challenges. Tell me a little about your personal conservation efforts.
A: I enjoy driving my electric vehicle — it’s got plenty of pep — and I’ve been even happier not having to buy gas for more than four years! The solar panels my husband and I installed about seven years ago allow me to recharge my vehicle at home. Recently, we upgraded our system with four more panels and backup batteries. Our last two electric bills were $0.00!
Putting solar panels on my roof allows me to capture energy from the sun to run my home and power my car. The good news is that solar is affordable for most middle-class families.
In this regard, the district can help folks undertake their own solar projects on the ground, including pollinator gardens, crop cover and mulch to prevent soil erosion, promote water efficiency and scrub carbon dioxide from the air.
When individuals plant trees and gardens, help the district plant trees and restore wetlands (especially after the Big Hole fire razed two of our Whitfield conservation areas), they are helping to capture carbon, as carbon dioxide binds to plants during photosynthesis and — by solar energy — releases oxygen into the air! I encourage interested district residents to put a conservation plan into practice — and the district can provide such conservation planning at no cost.
Q: Tell me about some of your accomplishments on the board.
A: I have worked to keep balance on our board. I believe it is important that we are nonpartisan and that we remain true to our mission.
I am constantly looking for ways to build the district’s capacity, and I’d like to think that stepping up to serve on Thursdays increases the efficiency and productivity of district staff.
Q: What is your vision for the district in the years ahead?
A: I want to make sure that the district’s outdoor education programs, nearly 300 acres of conservation, and its soil and water conservation food gardens in El Cerro Mission and Meadow Lake are sustained well beyond my lifetime.
I don’t want us to continue down the path of pushing our environment over the tipping point. I believe we still have a chance to make a difference. To that end, it’s heartwarming for me when I’m volunteering on Thursdays to see the children who are visiting — from the schools of Isleta to Belen — who are soaking up the learning opportunities that the outdoor classrooms of our Whitfield Conservation complex provide!
It’s a big deal for those kids and their teachers. I believe they need that hands-on outdoor science learning. I also believe that we need them, the school children and teachers who come to experience our work, because they can change the world.
(Teresa Smith de Cherif is vice chair of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board.)
The Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District is holding a conservation camp open to children of ages 8-12 who live within the district boundaries during the week of July 10-14. The camp will include fun, hands-on activities at the Whitfield Conservation Area and visits to local award-winning farms and the district’s food gardens at Meadow Lake and El Cerro Mission. The camp hours will be from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily. For more information, call the district at 505-864-8914.