2016 Enos A. Mills Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
It could be said that Rafael Salgado walks in dual worlds functioning as a crucial bridge between two countries, two languages, and two cultures. His lifetime of exceptional accomplishments as an environmental educator is achieved through his diverse experiences, humble approach, genuine enthusiasm, and driving spirit.
Originally from Mexico, Rafael grew up immersed in the natural environment and helping his family with farming and raising livestock. His career began conducting the first field research project in Mexico studying black bears along side his professional mentor, Dr. Julio Carrera. Fondly referring to him as the “Mexican Aldo Leopold” their work together ultimately lead to the creation of a national park.
Rafael’s career progressed into developing environmental education (EE) curriculum and training teachers and volunteers in its implementation, in Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. Today, at Cal-Wood Education Center, Rafael has become a catalyst for helping underserved populations including low-income students and Spanish-speaking families to discover how beautiful and accessible nature can be to them. As a native Spanish speaker, Rafael has a special ability and deep commitment to engage our Latino community of Colorado providing experiences to create appreciation for and understanding about the environment.
Rafael’s most recent endeavor—a Latino Family Camp Program—provides an overnight camping program for multi-generational Latino families. Since 2014 this highly successful program, engaging many partners, has touched almost 1,000 youth and their families, directly impacting the civic, educational, and cultural aspects of the Latino community. Again, acting as a bridge, he is providing traditional EE opportunities to diverse and underserved populations.
Locally, nationally, and internationally, Rafael has operated as a leader exemplifying the best of EE and working to improve the field of EE. The many distinctive awards he has received, as well as his mentorship of other local and national organizations are a testament to his vision of and commitment for an environmentally literate world.