On my last day in Patagonia I meet with graduates of the Borderlands youth program—kids who spent summer 2015 working in the field. They mapped area nectar landscapes, collected native seeds and helped with restoration projects. All are high schoolers except for a young Patagonia woman who attends Northern Arizona University’s School of Forestry. They are shy and giggly until it comes to talking about Borderlands. Annika Coleman, a sophomore who lives on a nearby ranch, says, “It sucked in the beginning, to have to get up early and work outside in the heat. But then you begin to see what you can do with a pickax or a bunch of seeds. Until last summer I didn’t understand why the work my grandfather, a rancher, does was important. Now I do.”

Seventeen-year-old Guadalupe Bueras, adds, “I know how to repair a riparian zone. I can heal a river. How many teenagers can say that?”

Time will tell whether Borderlands’ efforts will result in what Seibert calls “ecological and social restoration in tandem” or whether the organization will serve as a model for conservation efforts elsewhere. At the very least, the young people in this region are learning how to heal a ravaged land. There’s hope in that, and maybe also a living wage. If so, hard-working people and pollinators alike stand to gain.

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