Diving into Español, rivers and outreach: The 411 on our first Public Lands Fellow

Fabiola Lao is the first Public Lands Fellow at The Wilderness Society.  Since June 2011 she has been based in the Los Angeles office working on the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign.

As her year comes to an end, and before she heads to the Sierra Club to continue working on San Gabriel Mountains Forever, Fabiola dished about her fellowship.

Q: You were born in Perú, but raised in Los Angeles. And you have both Chinese and Peruvian heritage. Did that help your work on the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign?

A: Los Angeles is a very multicultural city, and the campaign is reaching out to all potential users of the mountains – and that includes many Asian and Latino communities. I use my Spanish language skills very often, particularly when reaching out to the Latino community. I don’t speak Chinese, but so many of the visitors we see in the mountains are Asian. It’s pretty common to hear Korean or Chinese on the trails.

Q: Did The Wilderness Society jump on your translator skills?

A: Almost immediately!  I have translated web pages and press releases into Spanish, and suggested we use ‘Sociedad para la Naturaleza Silvestre’ as the translation for The Wilderness Society’s name.  And I have also been an interpreter at our San Gabriel Mountains leadership academy classes when some students spoke mostly Spanish.

Q: Speaking of Spanish skills, you did one of the first Spanish-only radio interviews for us?

A: Yes, it was for a public radio talk show in San Francisco back in the fall, and I talked about the congressional bill known as the “Great Outdoors Giveaway” bill.

Q:  To date, what are you most proud of during your fellowship?

A:  Probably two things.  The first one was going to Washington D.C. and being able to tell several Congress members how important it is to create a San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area.  The second is organizing a community art show near La Crescenta, the town where I grew up, which is next to the San Gabriel Mountains.

Q: We also hear you really got your feet wet on a TWS river outing?

A: It’s true. I’m still learning how to paddle in white water, but I had a blast even if I flipped into the river during that Utah rafting trip…twice!

Prior to The Wilderness Society, Fabiola worked at environmental health and environmental justice non-profit organizations including Program Coordinator at the Breast Cancer Fund and Policy Analyst at the Latino Issues Forum. She has dual Bachelor in Arts degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies (Public Health concentration) and Spanish Language and Literature from UC Berkeley. She also has a Master in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.