“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

— Henry David Thoreau, a journal entry dated Aug. 5, 1851

ACRES invites you to welcome Reena Ramos to our team as advancement coordinator.

Ramos, of Auburn, began supporting ACRES Land Trust’s communication and donor relations earlier this summer. She previously worked three years as a summer land management intern, with funding support from the Olive B. Cole Foundation. Ramos, a recent graduate of Goshen College’s Environmental Science program, shares how her education and experience with ACRES transformed her evolving land ethic.

“Through the ACRES internship and Goshen College outings, I had many opportunities to observe ecosystems in Indiana and I began to place a higher value on our local lands,” says Ramos. “I had really underestimated the Indiana landscape — both the extent to which non-native invasive plants have taken over our forests and lands and also the inspiring native beauty that I had missed.”

When she was a child, the Ramos family relocated to Indiana after having lived in the forested mountainous regions of New Mexico and later Pennsylvania. Growing up near big rivers and expansive natural areas helped shape her view. Here in Indiana, she missed the mountains.

Too, like most of us, family experiences formed her land ethic. Like many Americans, she recalls that for the most part, her family took trips elsewhere to enjoy natural places such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Sleeping Bear Dunes and Chincoteague Island. Her view shifted, too, as study opportunities took her to places like Kenya and The Galapagos Islands, and later she’d work for places like Shenandoah National Park.

“My family would hike here at home a bit, but really, we planned most of our trips to places somewhere else,” said Ramos, echoing a sentiment that ACRES hears often. “We didn’t realize we could explore incredible places right here at home.”

The Nature of Americans Report, a 2015-16 collaborative study of nearly 12,000 adults and children across the Unites States, tells us that many Americans travel to find nature, that many adults see natural places as a destination, far from home; places you go outside your day-to-day routine. The report, led by DJ Case and Associates, included partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Disney Conservation Fund.

Through direct experience, Ramos came face to face with breathtaking Hoosier landscapes, rich native plant life and relentless land management needs. Her view shifted.

As a land management intern with ACRES, Ramos spent hours lugging a backpack sprayer off trail, fighting non-native invasive plants like Autumn Olive, Bush honeysuckle or multiflora rose. She saw firsthand how these plants can devastate natural places when they aren’t managed. At the same time, ACRES staff would point out the native wonders along the way, pausing with the interns to note unique plants and animals.

ACRES interns learn from experts in the field, too. Ramos discovered new plants and met people who cared for land right here at home. With a professional botanist, she saw yellow ladies slippers orchids for the first time. She was awed by thriving patches of state-endangered orchids. She discovered the redeeming qualities of the Hoosier landscape and the people who help protect parts of it.

“I often feel like land in the Midwest is overlooked and undervalued,” said Ramos. “If I was doing that, as someone who says she values natural places, I know it’s common.”

She also knows how to overcome it. With ACRES, Ramos will work to expand views.

“I’m motivated to help people see the beauty in this land that they might not have seen. I want to give people that ‘wow’ moment. I am very excited to be a part of a team that has the same values as I do, and I hope to make a difference in our local region.”

Lettie Haver manages outreach for ACRES Land Trust. She grew up in rural DeKalb County.

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