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Defiende's new director continues old traditions

Locations: News Published

To bring a piece of foliage indoors during the darkest days of the year; it’s a tradition that has taken many forms over millennia. 

What we call Christmas trees today signal back to pre-Christianity, with the Celts, Vikings and Egyptians all honoring evergreens — symbols of eternal life — around the winter solstice.

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On Dec. 5, Wilderness Workshop took the occasion to host a Defiende Nuestra Tierra (Defiende) event in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service. 

Defiende is Wilderness Workshop’s Latino/a/x outreach program, which recently hired Omar Sarabia as its new director.

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“In Mexico,” Sarabia informed The Sopris Sun, “only 5% of the land is public. We don’t have the same access to nature. Even national parks are private.”

Sarabia, who was born in California and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico, was introduced to the Roaring Fork Valley six years ago by Defiend’s previous director, Beatriz Soto. As a graduate student studying urban agriculture, Sarabia landed an internship with Sustainable Settings in 2015. 

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Like so many others, he fell in love with the area and now owns a home with his wife and children in New Castle.

“Our underrepresented Latino community is a fundamental part of this valley,” said Sarabia. “We are tireless workers who are a very important part of the economy of this region and are very fortunate to live in such a spectacular place.”

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To educate residents unfamiliar with the privileges of access to public lands, Wilderness Workshop hosted a small Posada — a Christmas celebration — at the Babbish Gulch trailhead above Sunlight Mountain Resort. The U.S. Forest Service supplied the tools and permits and Defiende served handmade tamales and champurrado — Mexican hot chocolate — beside a steadily-burning fire. Smokey Bear was there too, posing for photos and offering wildfire prevention tips.

The all-inclusive event attracted roughly 100 people throughout the day, many of whom were first-time tree harvesters. 

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Families parked in the sticky mud and plodded into the forest, dragging back a fir and lingering around the warmth of the fire. Nearby, children whizzed down a humble patch of snow in sleds.

“We’re glad to have everybody out here,” said District Ranger Kevin Warner. “Getting a Christmas tree is a great way to build family connection, as well as connection to public lands.”

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Sarabia agreed, “When you have gotten to know nature, you will want to conserve it.”

Christmas tree permits are available for $10 each, right up to Christmas Eve, at the Aspen-Sopris District building and Roaring Fork Coop in Carbondale, Big John’s Ace in Glenwood Springs and Bristlecone Mountain Sports in Basalt. Permits are also available online at www.bit.ly/COtreepermits

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Stay apprised of future Wilderness Workshop events by visiting: www.wildernessworkshop.org/events

Tags: #Blue Diamond Production #Defined Nuestra Tierra #Forest Service #Omar Sarabia #Wilderness Workshop
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