For the Mescalero Apache, the owl is a messenger. Often misconstrued as a bad omen, the owls provide a warning that it’s time to pay attention, and that “when the world is changing, we need to listen.” For Rocky Mountain Research Station Wildlife Biologist Dr. Serra Hoagland, that warning is a timely one. She’s studying the Mexican Spotted Owl population on the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico, a land steeped in cultural significance and whose tribal forest management team uses alternative methods to protect their forests from catastrophic wildfire - the biggest threat to the owl and to the environment in the Southwest from a changing climate. Hoagland sees the owls as harbingers for these changes and an indicator species for forest health.
Dr. Hoagland’s work is highlighted in the new short film, “Messengers: Owls of Mescalero.” In it, filmmaker Janey Fugate explores the role Native American conservationists play in protecting wilderness, and how combining traditional ecological knowledge with Western science can address one of the most critical challenges facing the world of wildlife management.
In addition to exploring the role of traditional knowledge in forest management, Hoagland hopes the film inspires another generation of Native American youth to pursue careers in conservation, “so we can continue to protect the resources that sustained our Native communities for generations.”