Executive Director, Amargosa Conservancy
Tanya Henderson, a funky and driven transplant to the Mojave Desert from California’s Bay Area, leads the Amargosa River Conservancy. After graduating from Whitman College in 2005, Tanya sought out ways to fulfill her passion for conservation, bringing her to the small town of Shoshone, California (population 31). Tanya and the Conservancy strive to protect the wilds, waters, and communities of the Amargosa River Basin which starts at Yucca Mountain (a proposed nuclear waste storage site) and ends in the lowest point in Death Valley. It contains the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, home to more endemic species than any other place in the United States.
In an area with so many critical habitats and endangered species, Tanya and the Conservancy are making huge environmental strides. A small organization, they work to involve the communities of the basin in important decision making, hold educational events, develop work projects that connect people to the land, and monitor endangered species populations. While with Tanya , Semester in the West participated in one of the Conservancy’s work projects, removing invasive cattails from important desert pupfish habitat and sweeping away off highway vehicle (OHV) tracks in the desert to prevent further destruction of desert soils.
Tanya has creatively found ways to engage and involve the communities near and far in protecting the unique water source that is the Amargosa and the desert oases it nurtures. Tanya’s dedication and obsession for desert ecosystems is exemplified in her work to protect the Amargosa vole and the desert pupfish species endemic to the Mojave. Tanya and the Conservancy hope to protect their small oasis while connecting it to the larger desert ecosystem through education, science, and community involvement.
By Whitney Rich
Photos by Nina Moore