My mom and I on our family’s peach orchard in Palisade, Colorado.

When I was formed, I was rolled down a mountain of powdery red dust, molded by an occasional water drop, and someone with a sense of humor placed a scraggly tumbleweed on my head as hair. My cells multiplied to the beat of the river against sandstone and I took on the form of an avid desert dweller in the canyon country of western Colorado. To this land I attribute my eternally dry skin, my insatiable thirst for a day in the mountains, and my bizarre affinity toward rocks.

Living close to the land through my formative years, strings of connection were drawn from my soul to various nooks and crannies across Colorado’s landscapes that have always drawn me back to this marvelous state.

colorado_national_monument_sarahEnjoying the Colorado National Monument just as much as I did when I was a kid.

Ironically however, the time when I truly cultivated a desire to do conservation work in Colorado was when I was abroad.

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My adopted Nepali family.

Nepal and India: Nepal and India, the great lands of paradox. These beautiful countries rich with culture were tainted with trash-filled rivers and unruly development. I was racking my brain for solutions while feeling immensely grateful for the open spaces that were available to me growing up in Colorado. It was during my travels here that  I realized the importance of the social component to all conservation work, which led me to pursue a master’s degree in Conservation Leadership at Colorado State University.

 

 

 

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The Ganges River as it emerges from the Himalayas. By the time it reaches the ocean, it is full of trash.

Belize:  As a Fellow of the Center for Collaborative Conservation, I moved to Belize for six months, working with Ya’axche Conservation Trust to study and promote sustainable agriculture in local Maya communities. Working on a complex issue with multiple stakeholders allowed me to realize that in order to be successful, conservation must be approached at multiple levels across jurisdictional, social and political boundaries.

 

 

 

 

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Left: A Maya farmer harvesting cacao from his agroforestry farm. RightThe stark boundary between a protected area and a monoculture farming plot in Cayo, Belize.

Of course, every time I left, Colorado’s desert sage and craggy mountains were tugging on my soul strings. I finally returned home and am thrilled to be working as a Field Organizer at Conservation Colorado. Working on clean energy and climate campaigns while advocating for the conservation of our precious public lands and water resources, I can finally give back the land that has continually provided for me and my family. Cultivating diverse experiences and a broad world perspective has allowed me to come full circle, working to protect my favorite place in the world.

san_juan_mountains_sarahExploring the beautiful San Juan Mountains.

For Wild Colorado,

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Sarah McCarthy

Field Organizer