Education specialist Megg Heath is retiring from the BLM’s Dolores field office after 23 years of service.
Heath began her education career working for Crow Canyon for seven years in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Just about then, the BLM began a more rigorous outreach program, and the Heritage Education movement was born.
Heath’s master’s degree in education administration and degree in anthropology made her a good fit for a new education position at the Dolores BLM field office.
“I thought I was going to be a school principal, but ended up working for the federal government,” she said. “It’s been the best job.”
As BLM’s National Lead for Education, Heath connected teachers with curriculum focused on the science and cultural resources of public lands.
“A seminal moment for heritage education was the Save the Past for the Future conference in Taos in 1989,” Heath said. “Archaeologist Jim Judge wrote it up, and after that all federal agencies were required to have education programs.”
Before the Internet, her office at the Anasazi Heritage Center did a lot of mailings of education materials to teachers on BLM sites, Heath said.
Teacher workshops were a regular part of her job as well, to train educators on the concept of heritage education.
“Without education, the next generation won’t understand the need to protect our public lands,” she said. “The field offices are well suited for sharing knowledge because they are staffed with biologists, archeologists, and land specialists who are passionate about their fields.”
Heath is especially proud of administering programs like History Mysteries, the Junior Explorers, Watchable Wildlife, and more recently the BLM’s artist in residence program, which began in 2012.
“We have 11 artist in residence programs in 13 states, including in Alaska and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument,” she said. “They are real community builders, spurring art festivals, plein air events, and art walks in small towns near BLM lands.”
Hands on the Land, spearheaded by Derrick Baldwin, is another BLM education program that works with local teachers to create and adapt lessons for use on 80 BLM sites around the nation.
“We work to get kids outside to learn and appreciate where they live throughout their lives,” Heath said.
The agency is evolving toward conservation and education, she adds.
“The last three Secretary of Interiors have realized that without education outreach on the science and cultural resources of public lands, in the future nobody will care.”
In retirement, Heath plans to create more acoustic music with her guitar-playing husband (she plays the otto harp), visit her kids, and help out with a family farm in Paonia.
“It’ll be nice to have that freedom of just getting in the jeep and taking off for however long I like,” she said.