20 July 2023

CCC Conference in Colorado!

Written by: Annika Benedetti

This July has been blistering so far in Albuquerque. It’s going to be 106 °F this week! This summer we have really been feeling the effects of climate change. The Southwestern and Western states have been breaking heat records left and right for the past few days and been under a heat dome. The Eastern states have not fared any better. There have been frequent flash floods and heavy rainstorms. Unfortunately, it seems like these extreme temperatures and weather conditions are becoming more and more common. Living through these ‘interesting’ times makes me grateful to have this opportunity to work as a Civilian Climate Corps Fellow contributing to the effort to combat climate change in our own unique ways.

               Last week, I had a great time at the Close-out conference in Fort Collins and Denver. It was nice to see the other CCC Fellows and catch up on what they have been doing at their refuge stations and their future goals. Their presentations on their Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) climate action plans and possible management plans for their refuges were very fascinating. Every fellow is stationed in different parts of the country and each refuge contains different habitats but a lot of the growing pressures from climate change are similar. For example, a refuge in Indiana and in Texas can be suffering from the arrival and propagation of invasive fauna and flora (though different species of course). It was also amazing to have the opportunity talk to and connect with other CCC fellows’ mentors and regional and headquarters leadership last week. It was heartening to see how much interest they were taking in our work and future in the FWS or in other areas of environmental conservation. I even got to meet the director of the whole National Wildlife Refuge System. I was definitely a bit starstruck! Listening to the career journeys of FWS leadership and refuge managers and how they got to their positions today was inspiring.

               It was also my first real trip to Colorado! I loved getting up to North Park and seeing the beautiful mountains and prairies. Our visit to Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge was great, I saw some cute prairie dogs up close. In Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, we spotted some bison and got a close look at an endangered black-footed ferret! Learning about the refuges’ complicated histories and how they balance beneficial habitat management plans like seasonal controlled burns with the legitimate concerns of the local community was very interesting. Though my work and research on locating oil wells with remote sensing doesn’t really put me in contact with local communities, it is crucial to remember the critical environmental justice aspect to combating climate change. After this trip, I am more intent on including more aspects of environmental justice in our work, such as perhaps documenting the density of orphan wells near certain communities, particularly low-income, minority communities.

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