The Upper Gila Watershed Alliance (UGWA) received a 2020 grant from the Lineberry Foundation to support its climate justice and youth empowerment program, “Thinking ON a Mountain.” A collaborative effort, Thinking ON a Mountain partners with Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy of New Mexico, Trollworks, the Gila National Forest, and Aldo Leopold Charter School’s (ALCS) Youth Conservation Corps eco-monitoring program to help students better understand how they can address our global climate and ecological emergencies. With support from the Lineberry Foundation, UGWA’s Thinking ON a Mountain project can now more successfully empower our region’s youth by providing better access to the knowledge, tools, and skills they need to be effective twenty-first century planetary stewards.
Under the direction of Mike Fugagli, ALCS’s eco-monitoring supervisor and Thinking ON a Mountain’s project manager, ALCS’s eco-monitoring crew is conducting numerous resiliency-based field ecology studies in order to help decision makers understand how climate change is affecting ecological systems in the greater Gila region. Much of the work currently underway is conducted in partnership with The Nature Conservancy on their rapidly recovering Iron Bridge Riparian Preserve in Riverside. The Iron Bridge Preserve was chosen as a study site because of its importance as a potential “climatic refugia”: a landscape that will hopefully serve as a refuge for a host of species that are increasingly under threat from global heating and habitat loss. At the Preserve, students are currently mapping riverside vegetation, monitoring water quality, conducting thermal mapping of the floodplain, documenting impacts from trespass cattle, banding birds and mapping their territories, and experimenting with bio-char for soil restoration and carbon sequestration.
Central to Thinking ON a Mountain’s vision is the idea that accelerated ecological literacy directly fosters youth advocacy and promotes environmental justice. This March 8-10, Thinking ON a Mountain will be upping the ante on rapid social change by bringing nine ALCS high school students to Las Vegas, NV to attend a Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training with former Vice President Al Gore. In Nevada, they will learn more about the science behind the climate crisis, how it will affect our region, and what they can do to help address it. When they return to our community as one of 20,000 plus Climate Reality Leaders globally, each student will be committing themselves to at least ten “Acts of Leadership” this coming year that will move us toward a just transition and a livable future, while recognizing that our climate and ecological emergencies affect the poor, the young, and people of color first and worst.
This is the second year that Thinking ON a Mountain and Aldo Leopold Charter School have partnered to send students to a Climate Reality Project training.
ALCS is a tuition-free public school with a focus on stewardship of the community and the natural environment. The school offers small class sizes, after-school academic support, opportunity for paid internship with Youth Conservation Corps, dual-credit coursework with Western New Mexico University, and the opportunity to play team sports with either Silver High School or Cobre High School.