Dr. Rodrigo Sierra-Corona, Borderlands Restoration Network’s (BRN) new Executive Director, began the job in late March, replacing Dr. Kurt Vaughn. Sierra described feeling, as he drove to work on his first day, that “I am going today to my dream job.”
While his feet may be closer to the ground a month into the job, he believes the reasons why BRN drew him to Patagonia are even more true now. “I have always been drawn to nonprofit organizations that actually do the work, walk the talk, make things happen. BRN is definitely one of those organizations. Our work is environmentally and socially very relevant to this time and this place.” As for his connection to the region, Sierra said, “I have lived and worked in the borderlands for over 20 years. I am an arid-landscape ecologist. It feels like home to me.”
Sierra was born and raised in Central Mexico. He studied biology as an undergraduate and was initially very interested in studying large mammals like black bear and jaguar. As his training and job experience grew, he shifted toward an ecosystems approach to address the problems caused by overuse of lands and extraction of natural resources as well as climate change. He completed his PhD at National University of Mexico in Ecosystems Management and continued his work for both nonprofit and government organizations in Mexico, including Cuenca Los Ojos, a Network partner of BRN. For the past five years Sierra has been in California managing the 20,000-acre St. Lucia Nature Preserve. This geographic detour advanced his land management skills as well as his organizational experience managing staff, budgets, and fundraising.
When asked about his first impressions of BRN, Sierra said, “Well, first I am still very much in the learning phase and expect to be so for all of this year (and hopefully forever). So mostly I will be listening, and observing, and talking with people inside the organization, with our partners, and with the communities where we work. I can say that I am very impressed by the quality and commitment of the Borderlands staff and board. They are a group of doers. I am also impressed with the breadth and quality of our programs at BRN and the great reputation that BRN has in the region and beyond.
“As you can tell, I am excited to be here. The borderlands are a special place with a remarkable combination of biologic richness and cultural complexity. Since beginning work in the region over 20 years ago, I have seen the borderlands’ wildlife, landscapes, and communities make advancements and experience losses. We are at a critical juncture. Climate change is making big statements. The border wall is a too real embodiment of the complex social, environmental, economic and political situation we find ourselves in. BRN has a lot to offer to positively address these challenges in our region, particularly in partnership with others. There is not a place I would rather be right now doing this work.”
BRN is a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Patagonia. It was established in 2015 and has grown to become one of the town’s largest employers, with 24 permanent employees and an additional 30 seasonal employees. Borderlands offers programs, products, and services in the areas of land management; watershed and habitat restoration; native plant and seed collection, propagation, installation, sales; and education and community outreach.
Sierra encourages everyone to visit the BRN website to get a fuller picture of BRN’s work as well as the schedule of activities and events you can participate in. He also looks forward to meeting all of BRN’s local partners and speaking with members of the Patagonia community. You can connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time.