When discussing the political border between the United States and Mexico — a topic about division — local environmentalists this week are instead going to focus on inclusivity when presenting to several audiences throughout the area.
Two scientists who are on staff at the Salt Lake City-based Wildlands Network, Mirna Manteca and Myles Traphagen, will present their research and answer questions regarding how the expanded border wall is impacting the surrounding environment and animal migratory patterns. Wilderness Workshop partnered with the conservation organization to host Manteca and Traphagen.
“One of the biologists is Mexican, and she’s a strong woman,” said Beatriz Soto, director of Wilderness Workshop’s Defiende Nuestra Tierra program. “The other biologist is American, so they’re both going to be at the presentation. We’re excited to bring two experts in their own language.”
The two are featured speakers at Bilingual Naturalist Night at Carbondale Middle School this evening at 6. To encourage families to attend, there will also be free child care and a light dinner served at 5:30 p.m. with a reservation. The event is free, open to the public and will be bilingual, Soto said.
By focusing on the wildlife ungoverned by politics, Soto hopes to offer an intelligent conversation that is also a reprieve from the often heated discourse surrounding the border.
“We have a large Latino population, and a lot of conversation around the border has been tense lately,” she said. “We really wanted to step away from that political aspect of it and really think about wildlife migration and how it affects these communities. It affects how rivers flow, and there’s a lot more going on than the political side of it in an informative, neutral way.”
For interested upvalley audiences, Manteca and Traphagen will also be presenting at Naturalist Night at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Thursday at 6 p.m., though that event will be in English.
Additionally, through a partnership with the Buddy Program, the visiting scientists will also share their knowledge with Basalt and Roaring Fork High Schools Thursday and Friday — which will be bilingual, Soto said, noting that 58 percent of the Roaring Fork School District student body is Latino.
For that reason, she thinks Manteca’s presence in particular is important.
“We can expose young girls to a biologist that looks like them,” she said. “We need to get kids an opportunity to be a part of this conversation as well. There’s so much biological diversity in this area; we’re just setting up this conversation where questions can be asked in English and Spanish and just understanding the subject a little better and understanding this is a bigger problem.”
About 25 million acres of land within 100 miles of the border are protected public lands, including six national parks and six wildlife refuges.
“There’s also a decent amount of public land along the border, places that conservationists have been working for decades to protect,” Soto said. “That’s really what Myles and Mirna are going to be talking about directly.”
The timing works well, too, said John Brasier, coordinator for the Buddy Program’s LEAD — Leadership, Exploration, Action and Discovery — program.
“We are super excited because it ties well into our public lands management curriculum that we taught first semester,” he said. “Wildlife on public lands and how the border is affecting all that, it ties well into everything we do.”