Latin American students learn about land management |

Latin American students learn about land management

Dan Olsen
Jorge Pitty, of Panama, left, and Hanna St. Luce, of Belize, visited Craig on Wednesday as part of a group of 22 students from Central and South America studying land management techniques. The Little Snake Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management hosted the group for a morning of classroom instruction before they headed for Browns Park to visit the wildlife refuge.
Dan Olsen

— The trip for Estuardo Secaira from Guatemala to Craig began when he learned the Nature Conservancy was helping to send a group of Central and South American students to the U.S. to learn about land management.

Secaira works for a nongovernmental organization as well as the government of Guatemala in that area. He was in Craig on Wednesday to learn about management at the federal level.

“It’s very interesting to learn by contrast,” he said. “We’re learning how agencies manage land and learning from the people we meet.”

Secaira said land conservation in Guatemala has been around since 1955, when certain areas were listed as protected. In colonial times, the indigenous peoples were living in protected areas, but they also were the poorest inhabitants and least likely to practice conservation, he said.

He noted wildlife is not as abundant in his country as in Colorado, but the people there are living more closely to the “margin of subsistence.”

What Secaira learns in Colorado, he hopes to take home and implement to improve the environment and sustain life, he said.

Colorado State University and the U.S. Forest Service international programs organized the 35-day trip around Colorado for 22 Spanish-speaking individuals representing 14 countries.

Craig MacFarland, Ph.D., from CSU said the group includes two Brazilian professors hoping to return home to teach about managing protected areas.

MacFarland is one of the founders of the annual trips, which began in 1990, and he said the students learn from what has worked here in the U.S. and what has not.

“They see the strengths and weaknesses (of U.S. land management),” he said. “The United States has been protecting land longer than any country.”

That history was part of the lecture given to the group by John Husband, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management.

Covering the Homestead Act, mining claims and public domain, Husband played out the changes in American management of its land during the past 200 years.

The current road trip for the group is an eight-day trek across Northwest Colorado that includes floating down the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument.

A stop at Flaming Gorge includes lectures on dams and water issues in America.

Before Craig, the group visited cattle ranches and heard from Colorado State Forest officials on wood production and conservation.

Hanna St. Luce of Belize was impressed by what she has seen so far.

“I like that I am given the chance to compare different techniques of area management,” she said. “The management at the community and state levels especially. They seem to prioritize better at the state level. I really like the way they incorporate recreation into area management.”

In Belize, St. Luce promotes protection of areas at a national level. Belize has been involved in conservation since the 1970s, she said.

Spanish translator and course coordinator Ryan Finchum said this field trip is an important part of the course for the visitors.

“They get out of the day-to-day routine and get a fresh perspective in a totally different area,” he said. “What they learn here may apply to their situation. We hope they come away with a renewed sense of inspiration on what’s worth protecting.”

The group will conduct 60 percent fieldwork and spend the rest of the time in the classroom during their Colorado visit, organizers said.

The group spent the first part of the week exploring Martinez Park in Fort Collins, as well as a private conservation reserve.

Rocky Mountain National Park and the Roosevelt National Forest were both stops visited by the field trip.

A visit to Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge is the next stop after lunch in Maybell, and the group returns to CSU on Tuesday.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or

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