soil & water conservation
The following interview is the first of a series of profiles of women serving on the board of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District. Board member Teresa Smith de Cherif interviewed fellow board member Pam Cordova, the daughter of Kandy Cordova, a former state legislator and county clerk.
Q: The Kandy Cordova Nature Trail at the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District’s Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area is named in honor of your mother. Tell us a little about her life-long conservation efforts and involvement with the District.
A: “Growing up on a farm in Los Chavez, I remember hearing my parents use the word conservation as they imparted important lessons about our Earth to me and my siblings.
“My mother and father taught us to respect our water, land and air at an early age. It was no surprise to me when my mother was elected to be the representative of New Mexico House District 7, that she brought these ideas with her to the Legislature, understanding the nexus between childhood education and life-long conservation. She was the first legislator to secure capital funding to support hands-on, outdoor science learning about our environment at the VSWCD.
In 2009, at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Whitfield Education and Visitors Center, our whole family was proud of our mother’s foundational role. Years later, we were honored when the district dedicated the only named area within Whitfield as the Kandy Cordova Nature Trail. Until she died, my mother had been a member of the Friends of Whitfield, as well.”
Q: You’re a retired public-school teacher and taught school for 20 years in Valencia County. You also planned outdoor recreation when you managed the Los Padillas Community Center for Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation in the early 1990s. Tell us what inspired you to join the VSWCD board.
A: “I was inspired to join the District board because the VSWCD is one of the most effective and efficient organizations in Valencia County and beyond. By preserving conservation land and water for wildlife and natural plant life, we are ensuring that future generations will enjoy our natural world.
“Conservation itself is the care and protection of these resources. As a former educator, I am able to continue to help our youth and adults understand how conservation benefits us as a society and that’s exciting! I believe that my mother led me to this work, so I could continue to walk in her footsteps.”
Q: What do you hope to accomplish for our district?
A: “As a member of the VSWCD’s Education and Whitfield Committee, I hope to lend my 20 years of experience in the classroom to all our education programs at Whitfield. I want to make sure our district serves everyone within it, including the Pueblos of Isleta and Laguna.
“Our outdoor environmental education programs reached the Isleta schools this year, bringing all students from Isleta Elementary School to Whitfield for the first time! Likewise, I plan to bring our programs to the Pueblo of Laguna.
“On April 21-22, we celebrated Earth Day at Whitfield, where Rebecca “Beck” Touchin, of Laguna Pueblo, returned to offer a special land acknowledgment on the first day. The first woman governor of Isleta, retired Judge Verna Teller, while giving a land acknowledgement, also inspired us to protect our Mother Earth.
“Earlier in April, I attended a two-day workshop, “Restoring Whitfield,” and I am committed to the district’s implementation of a climate-adapted revegetation design for Whitfield conservation lands along the Middle Rio Grande.
Q: With 75 percent of Whitfield and Stacy conservation lands burning on April 11, 2022, it was nothing short of amazing that the northeast corner of Whitfield, which is a cottonwood forest — where the Kandy Cordova Nature Trail meanders — was spared.
Given your mother’s long-time commitment to making her community better, isn’t her death on Earth Day, April 21, 2023, a reminder that we all have a role in conservation?
A: “When I learned that the fire at Whitfield spared the Kandy Cordova Nature Trail, I vowed to continue to support Whitfield and the district’s work generally, on behalf of my mother who more than any local leader made Whitfield a reality.
“At her rosary and funeral, I was moved by our many family members and friends who will be honoring my mother by donating money for climate-adapted trees and plants for Whitfield’s restoration. I invite all to continue to ‘walk the Kandy Cordova trail,’ too.”
(Teresa Smith de Cherif is vice chairwoman of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.
The district is still accepting applications for the Dan Goodman Environmental Award, which is open to high school students throughout the VSWCD. Three awards of $500 will be made. Applications are due by 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 31, 2023. For more information, write [email protected]. )