By Eric Greenwell, Conservation Project Manager
Last July, my friend, Tươi Nguyễn and I hiked the Beacon Hill Trail on the Peterson Angus Ranch near Drummond. We immersed ourselves in the wide-open prairie, talking about how those grasslands have supported wildlife, tribes, and ranching families. As we hiked, we crushed sprigs of sagebrush, releasing an aroma unmistakable to me and new to her.
Five Valleys hosted Tươi for four weeks last summer through the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) program. YSEALI facilitates immersive exchange between professionals in Southeast Asia and the US. It is administered through the Department of State nationally and the University of Montana's Mansfield Center locally.
While in Montana, Tươi spent time with Five Valleys, Montana Trout Unlimited, and the Clark Fork Coalition soaking up every ounce of Big Sky Country and all she could about land and water conservation before returning home to Vietnam.
This March, I traveled to Hanoi where Tươi and her NGO, Center for Environment and Community Research (CECR), hosted me for two weeks. It was the second YSEALI experience in which Five Valleys has participated.
I learned about the opportunities and challenges NGOs in Vietnam face, especially around fundraising as their economy advances. I translated fundraising materials into English and facilitated a presentation by the Five Valleys team—with a 13-hour time difference—about nonprofit and private-sector partnerships.
And of course, we took time to experience what Tươi and her colleagues are working so hard to protect. Water is central to Vietnamese culture and economics. CECR has developed monitoring and waste-sorting programs to improve water quality in Hanoi’s Red River delta. I also experienced Hanoi’s unparalleled food culture, from egg coffee to sea snails in butter sauce.
We also spent time in Cúc Phương National Park and Ha Long Bay (pictured at top). As I looked out at the Bay’s many islands, I considered how much I learned and wanted to learn more about, just from spending two weeks in Vietnam, and I remembered the prairie, which supports so much life because of its diversity, complexity, and health. Now back in Montana, it's inspiring to know that we have partners all across the globe who are working to conserve and protect the lands that provide us all so much.
Photos courtesy of Eric Greenwell