John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold.
The most remembered names of the early conservation movement may be male, but by the late 1890s women were already a big part of a burgeoning ethic to save wildlife, birds and wild lands. They moved behind the scenes, where politics kept them, pushing forward national conservation agendas.
More than a century later, Southwest Women in Conservation brought together women from all across New Mexico who’ve spent decades working and advocating for environmental protection. A range of women and a few brave men gathered Friday at the Randall Davey Audubon Center to brainstorm ideas for protecting ecosystems into the future. Audubon New Mexico organizers hope to make the event an annual affair.
“Audubon wants to bring diverse people together, from biologists to decision makers, from gardeners to business people,” said Karyn Stockdale, executive director of Audubon New Mexico.
Stockdale is talking about women such as keynote speaker Martha Desmond, an associate professor and interim department head for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology at New Mexico State University. Desmond has spent more than a decade studying species in the Chihuahuan Desert on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Lately, she’s been studying the impacts of energy projects – both renewable and hydrocarbon – on wildlife habitats. “Energy development is a huge threat [to wildlife and habitats],” Desmond said.
Solar and wind projects, while desirable, “have an enormous footprint on landscapes and wildlife habitat,” she said, calling it the “green dilemma.” “Wind [projects] affect more land per unit of energy produced than hydrocarbon.”
Where Stockdale works for conservation with a scientist’s passion, Utah native Amy Irvine fights for land and species with her words. The award-winning author’s books include Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land. Her new book, Terra Firma, is due out in 2012. Irvine has learned conservation issues aren’t black and white. Truly inhabiting a place means learning to live with the differences of opinion and working within them to save land and wildlife, she said.
Audubon New Mexico believes bringing together women of diverse opinions and backgrounds will help establish new relationships and train the next generation in conservation.
For more information and to get involved, contact Audubon New Mexico at http://nm.audubon.org.