Earth Day project focused on conservation along the Rio Grande

ALAMOSA — United Campus Ministry partnered with the BLM, ASU EARTH, SLVEC, and Spirit of the Wild Horses to provide a community service camping trip for students and faculty.

The group planned this trip in order to celebrate Earth Day by planting trees and contributing to the preservation and census of the wild mustangs of the Brownie Hills and the Wild Horse Mesa.

Participants started off the weekend by planting native narrowleaf cottonwood and red willow saplings along the riparian area of the upper Rio Grande with the assistance from the BLM. They educated students on how these trees aid in improving the water quality of the river, which will essentially benefit all organisms that depend on the Rio Grande for nutrients.

When students were asked if this experience contributed to their knowledge and commitment to environmental conservation, one student answered, “Yes, it made me appreciate the creatures and nature of the river more.”

Another student said, “it made me more aware of overgrazing, the need to protect the wildlife, and river conservation,” which was one of the main goals of this trip.

While the main focus was to participate in community service, students were also able to enjoy camping fun during the rest of the weekend. Wildlife/Wild Horse Ecologist Paul Polechla Jr., Ph.D., offered his leadership during this trip to lead students on hikes and tours of the Brownie Hills. Participants were able to witness wild mustangs in their natural grassland habitats and to see how a band functions with its lead mare, foals, and stallion.

Judy Barnes, co-founder of Spirit of the Wild Horse, also provided her assistance by taking students to the Wild Horse Mesa, where participants could pet, feed, and interact with free roaming wild mustangs – one of the highlights of the trip. One student said the highpoint was “seeing two stallions fight for mares.”

The Earth Day camping trip was a success for all who attended, and it would not have been possible without everyone’s participation. Special thanks go to the SLVEC for their donation for this trip, the BLM for providing the trees and land for the planting, Jim and Janice Vaughn for providing food for the students, Dr. Paul Polechla and Judy Barnes for their hard work and dedication to the students and faculty, and everyone else who helped in making this trip possible.

Caption: Adams State students and faculty plant native narrowleaf cottonwood and red willow saplings along the riparian area of the upper Rio Grande with the assistance from the BLM. Courtesy photo by Shirley Atencio