Congrats to Paul Rivera who joined Center for Public Lands as a GOCO fellow in 2022! The GOCO Fellowship Program supports positions at our partner organizations to prepare young people for careers in the outdoors. GOCO fellows gain experience in the fields of conservation, outdoor recreation, and stewardship while growing a professional skill set to apply to future endeavors.

Tell us a little about yourself. What did you do before you began the fellowship?Paul Rivera posing with an Aspen

Hello my name is Paul Rivera. I am from New Mexico and am currently living in Gunnison, Colorado where I work for a nonprofit at Western Colorado University (WCU) called Center for Public Lands (CPL). In the winter I work for CPL and in the summer I work for Sustainable Tourism Outdoors and Recreation (STOR). I am a full-time graduate student at WCU where I am getting my Masters in Environmental Management (MEM). Before I began my fellowship, I was a recent grad from New Mexico State University where I got my Bachelors of Science in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology. During the time between my fellowship and graduation I was working full-time between two companies. One was M3 Mead Enterprises where I was working as a heavy equipment mechanic, and the other was Division 27 Communication’s where I was working as a low-voltage electrician.

What’s been one of the best experiences of your life so far?

Being able to work with a diverse group of wildlife. Throughout my life I have had a love for wildlife and enjoy the science that goes into conservation. Some of these experiences have shaped my career choice. Some of the best experiences I have had have been working with wildlife. I have been fortunate enough to do volunteering with Dr. Kerry Mower at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish where I was able to assist on multiple duck captures and bandings, as well as working on chronic wasting disease check points for mule deer. At NMSU I was able to work and volunteer in different project such as elk darting and collaring and Pinion Jay surveys, as well as working on White Sands Missile Range conducting bird mortality surveys. I also got opportunities such as Mexican Grey Wolf puppy vaccinations. All of these experiences have been some of the best and most memorable experience of my life.

What have you learned so far through the fellowship experience?  

Throughout this fellowship experience I have learned an immeasurable number of things. To begin with, I have learned how to work as a team in an office to run projects, meet deadlines, and help others. In addition to this, I have learned how nonprofit organizations run and how to play an important role within them. I have also learned many aspects of public lands management such as the role that beaver dam analogs play in an ecosystem. This mixture of both office and field work provides a great level of experience, and this is a unique and interesting opportunity that I am grateful to have gotten.

How do you think the outdoors contributes to communities or to  individuals’ quality of life?

Outdoor recreation is an important aspect of society. It is great for our health both mentally and physically. By spending time outdoors, we can recognize the value that the outdoors brings. This recognition can lead to the desire to conserve and manage these lands.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside?

My favorite things to do outdoors include hunting, fishing, and observing wildlife. Being in the outdoors is a great escape for me. It allows me to just enjoy nature and decompress.

Got a life dream to share ?

One dream of mine is to get hired on as wildlife biologist for a state or federal agency, being able to work with wildlife every day and be part of the conservation efforts to help mammal and avian species be here for future generations. Growing up in a small town, I have seen how fast urbanization, recreation impacts, and habitat loss are happening. Many species are being pushed and stressed. Due to this, we are seeing a decline in population sizes. I want to contribute to the conservation and management efforts. Like they say, if you do what you love you never work a day in your life.