Our world needs more leaders like Judy

She will always be my El Paso conservation hero.

Judy Ackerman pointing out a packrat nest in the Franklin Mountains.

Remembering El Paso conservation leaders and dedicated volunteers who left us in 2022

by Rick LoBello, Education Curator

Last month El Paso said its good-byes to Judy Ackerman, one of the greatest conservation leaders our city has ever known. Judy and I go back to 2004 when we worked on organizing the first Poppies Fest with the help of the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition, the Parks Department and the Zoo. She was such a joy to work with and one of the most passionate conservation advocates you would ever meet. If you were on her email list you know that she must have sent out hundreds if not thousands of emails to anyone who would read them about upcoming City Council meetings and more. If there was land that needed to be protected you could count on Judy on being at the front of the line to speak out. We worked together on a website for the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and with the help of hundreds of volunteers gained all kinds of signatures on petitions to city leaders asking them to protect and preserve unprotected natural open spaces surrounding the Franklin Mountains. I can’t think of a single environmental issue and campaign that Judy was not involved in. She was amazing.

Whenever I could I would help to get her conservation messages online including videos on YouTube like this earlier pre-National Monument campaign to help protect the Castner Range.

Judy tried to stop the Border Wall at Rio Bosque

I will never forget the day Judy introduced me to former City Council Representative Jim Tolbert when we met up at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park to drum up support to stop the Border Wall. I have never met someone who was willing to get arrested and put in handcuffs. On December 17, 2008 while trying to block the construction of the wall she made history in trying to help protect the park. You can see a video on YouTube here.

After nearly two decades of working together to engage our community in valuing land conservation I would say the most memorable and most important thing we did was in 2014 when she asked me to attend a Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition meeting to talk about the Castner Range.  At that meeting I encouraged the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition to move in the direction of asking President Obama to declare the Castner Range of the Franklin Mountains as a National Monument.  Several years earlier I crafted the environmental platform for Congressional candidate Beto O’Rourke and was confident that he would help.  In addition to Beto who played a major role in protecting the range, not long after Congresswoman Veronica Escobar introduced legislation in support of the creation a National Monument. I expect that any day now President Biden will do just that. None of this would have happened without Judy’s leadership and drive.  Without a doubt I can confidently say that Judy Ackerman is one of the greatest El Paso conservation heroes in the history of the city.

Our world needs more leaders like Judy. She was a driving force in El Paso to make a difference and would never let down. She will always be my El Paso conservation hero. Her last words to me were “keep up the fight.” Of course I said yes.

The last time we spent some quality time together was in April of 2021 when we met in Northeast El Paso and made this video about protecting the Stony Hill Arroyo.

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