Ancestral Lands, American Conservation Experience, Navajo Nation, Nizhoni Academy, Mt Elden Middle School, Alpine Academy, Wupatki National Monument, Tumacacori National Monument, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Glen Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Disney Nature, National Park Service (NPS)
The southwestern United States has a rich cultural heritage and continues to be one of the most diverse cultural hotspots on the planet. This cultural heritage includes thousands of years of human civilization represented in ancient ruins, cliff-dwellings, and pueblos, many of them in resource-rich and ecologically diverse areas well suited for thriving human communities. However, many of these cultural parks are now well-funded for natural resource management. By working with cultural parks across the southwestern US, we are able to pool resources that would not be available to any one park, but are available to a network or parks.
We work with Ancestral Lands conservation corps, Navajo and Hopi youth corps involved in restoration of cultural parks. We offer a leadership program – a Restoration Certificate Field School – in ecocultural restoration through the Coconino Community College to encourage career pipelines in the conservation industry from these youth.
We also work with non-tribal rural communities to participate in restoration of cultural parks. In this way, we hope to inspire cross-cultural exchange of ideas to embrace new cultural syntheses that value nature.
Many of our cultural parks are degraded due to invasion by exotic plant species, a long history of over-grazing, and channelization of streams and rivers. In fact, of the 4,000 plant species that occur in the 52 National Park Service-managed areas of the American Southwest, fully 1,000 of them are exotic species. We have treated nearly 500 acres of invasive species and planted over 20,000 trees. But maybe more importantly, we have worked with over 1,000 youth to connect to these lands through restoration action and citizen science.
Our EcoKids program, through school-specific and co-developed restoration projects, has involved over 300 students in Cultural Parks managed by NPS. This has included planting willows and cottonwoods in degraded rivers, and setting up biological monitoring citizen-sciece to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration on promoting wildlife and increasing soil health.
The Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps for tribal youth has planted thousands of trees in these cultural parks. Through our leadership program, youth work with K-12 schools to develop and implement restoration projects in tribal communities. This includes development of natural trails and citizen science projects to foster greater participation in land stewardship, to inspire entrepreneurship in conservation, and create green jobs.