Thursday, March 07, 2013
Bernalillo County’s Open Space program has received the environmental stewardship award from the New Mexico Recreation and Parks Association.
The award recognizes the success of the county’s Master Naturalist Program, where volunteers receive a free 55-hour intensive training on local ecology and then complete a service project that helps to extend the reach of what Bernalillo County is able to accomplish on Open Space lands, which cover about 1,000 acres from the East Mountains to the valley.
The training covers such topics as plant and animal identification to learning about geology and water issues. Volunteers also develop friendships with fellow naturalists and have an opportunity to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
“Bernalillo County’s Open Space program has developed innovative and creative ways to educate and engage volunteers in the care and enhancement of our beautiful Open Space properties,” Commission Chair Maggie Hart Stebbins says. “Our staff deserves this recognition for their great work.”
Examples of Master Naturalist service projects include Nature Packs, a program that encourages families to spend time outdoors together as they explore the bosque; developing nature guides; conducting water quality and vegetation studies; and building barriers to prevent soil erosion.
The Master Naturalist Program is nationally recognized and began in New Mexico in 2010 with the help of partners including the Rio Grande Nature Center and Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District. Today, the program has become the cornerstone of Open Space with 40 certified naturalists who have completed the two-month training and 40 hour service project.
Registration for this year’s program is now open. Applications will be accepted through March 29 for the Master Naturalist summer training. This program is free; however, there are only 25 slots available. To apply, visit www.bernco.gov/openspace
Also this year, Bernalillo County is launching the Junior Naturalist Program for 7th and 8th-grade students. The summer camp will take place this July, and applications are currently being accepted through March 22.
Bernalillo County’s successful program is being replicated in other places. Two budding chapters are starting up this year, including the Whitfield Master Naturalist Chapter in Valencia County and the Chihuahuan Desert Master Naturalist Chapter in Dona Ana County.
Call Colleen McRoberts at 505.314.0398 for more information.
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