Ashley Carlisle, 14, of Tohatchi, N.M., has been named agriculture ambassador by the Intertribal Agriculture Council, a group that promotes conservation and development of tribal lands of Native American and Alaskan tribes.
Carlisle, a student at Rehoboth Christian school and a member of First Navajo Christian Reformed Church in Tohatchi, New Mexico, won the post by writing an eight-page essay on "How to Manage Risk on My Reservation."
She noted that while many people think desertification is something that happens in places such as Africa—a subject her world history class had been studying—she was seeing the same thing happening in her own community.
She wrote how accumulating trash littered the landscape, how stray animals not only damaged plant life but spread disease, and how a lack of planning had allowed irrigation to drain a local lake.
Carlisle and her entire family—fourth-generation cattle ranchers—were invited to the annual symposium held by the council and the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance in Las Vegas, Nev., where Ashley read her essay to an audience of more than 500 people.
Carlisle is also an ambassador for Native Women and Youth in Agriculture. She has spoken to groups in New Mexico, Arizona, and North Carolina. Her summer included a weeklong program in zoology and biology at the University of Iowa.
On the way home by way of Montana, she gets to select a quarter horse colt or filly, a prize a Montana rancher donated to the essay contest winner.