Annual Christmas Bird Count at Great Sand Dunes on December 29th

Burrowing owls at Great Sand Dunes (photo NPS)

Great Sand Dunes is looking for birders of all skill levels to volunteer in Audubon’s longest-running wintertime tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This year’s event will be held at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on Saturday, December 29th. Great Sand Dunes is one of many locations nationwide participating in this survey. The park is also encouraging those within the count circle who have bird feeders to join in the fun.
Volunteers should meet at 8:30 am at the Great Sand Dunes visitor center conference room (about ½ mile past the entrance station) for event instructions, and hot drinks. Volunteers will receive free entrance to the Park and Preserve for assisting in the bird count. Interested individuals are encouraged to bring binoculars, cameras, snacks, water, sturdy winter footwear, and bird books, if possible.
To register for the bird count at Great Sand Dunes, visit, and contact Dewane Mosher at 719-378-6363 or Dewane will provide a map of the count circle and a winter bird checklist upon registration.
The longest running citizen science survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count takes place nationwide in late December each year. The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the “side hunt,” a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, it was proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort – and a more than century-old institution. The CBC is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere, and the data, which are 100% volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of the U.S. Government’s natural history monitoring database.
Please go to the Audubon website for additional information, news, and history on the Christmas Bird Count:

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Great Sand Dunes Changes Entrance Fees to Address Infrastructure Needs & Improve Visitor Experience

Photo by Vidella Vigil

This past spring, the National Park Service (NPS) announced service-wide fee increases to provide additional funding for infrastructure and maintenance needs to enhance the visitor experience. As a result, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will modify its entrance fees. Effective January 1, 2019, the entrance fees to the park will be $25 per vehicle or $20 per motorcycle. An annual park pass will cost $45.

Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service and helps ensure a quality experience for all who visit. At Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, at least 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park for spending towards enhancing the visitor experience. We share the other 20 percent of entry fee income with other national parks for their projects.

In response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017, there will be a modest increase for all entrance fee-charging parks, rather than the higher peak-season fees initially proposed for only 17 highly-visited national parks.

National parks have experienced record breaking visitation, with more than 1.5 billion visitors in the last five years. Throughout the country, the combination of an aging infrastructure and increased visitation has put a strain on park roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services and led to a $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog nationwide.

“Entrance fees collected at Great Sand Dunes support infrastructure projects that enhance the visitor’s experience,” stated Superintendent Pam Rice. “In recent years, the park has been able to use fee revenue to maintain, repair and improve our facilities, enhance essential visitor services such as events and programs, restore critical habitat for the wildlife that visitors come to see and enjoy, and to support our law enforcement rangers in their public safety duties.”

The additional revenue from entrance fees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will support the renovation of the visitor center interior exhibits, replacement of water distribution lines in the Pinon Flats Campground and the Mosca Creek Picnic Area, restoration of Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout habitat along Sand Creek, replacement of exterior doors on comfort stations and visitor center, and rehabilitation of the entrance station.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has collected entrance fees since 1997. The current rate of $20 per vehicle or $15 per motorcycle has been in effect since January 1, 2018. The park is one of 117 National Park Service sites that charges an entrance fee. The other 300 national parks will remain free to enter.

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Entrance fees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are in-line with this fee structure. Other parks not yet aligned with their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by January 1, 2020.

The complete fee schedule will change according to the following:

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Prices                           2018                   2019(Starting Jan. 1)

Car                               $20                      $25

 Motorcycle                $15                       $20

Individual                   $10                       $15

  Annual Pass             $40                      $45

– –

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees who care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at, on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

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Remember us on Colorado Gives Day!

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Support SdCNHA on Amazon Smile

Did you know you can support the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area all year round at no extra cost to you?!

Amazon Smile is a separate website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as The difference is that when you shop on Amazon Smile, the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

Be sure to sign in to ​Amazon Smile –​​ for the 0.5% donation to be  attributed to SdCNHA!

You can still access all of your lists, and Amazon Prime benefits  from the Amazon Smile site. You’ll be able to see your lifetime giving from the  AmazonSmile site too!

Here are some helpful tips for how to sign up for Amazon Smile from your desktop or mobile device…
how to sign up for amazon smile pdf

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Faz Presented Edward B. Danson Award

Faz is fourth from the left

The Western National Parks Association (WNPA), a nonprofit education partner of the National Park Service (NPS) since 1938, announced the recipients of its annual awards at the WNPA board reception on November 8th in Tucson, Arizona. For more than 30 years, WNPA has recognized individuals and organizations who make exceptional contributions to national parks and increase awareness of WNPA’s mission.

Katherine Faz, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Liaison for the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, received the Edward B. Danson Award for her commitment to the shared mission of WNPA and the NPS at Great Sand Dunes.

Faz gives youth a guided tour of the Sacred Trees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Since 2011 Faz has committed time and resources to support the improvement and growth of WNPA’s park store at Great Sand Dunes. As a result of her continuous and persistent dedication to serving visitors and leveraging the support provided by WNPA, the store reached $1 million in sales for the 2018 fiscal year, a growth of nearly 100 percent over the past four years. Katherine has a Bachelor of Science in Geography and a Masters of Art in History from Texas State University. She also received an award from NPS for 10 years of service this past August. She worked at National Park locations in Texas and New Mexico before coming to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The Edward B. Danson Award honors those who show exceptional support and loyalty to the WNPA mission and national parks. The award was named for the noted archaeologist and director of the Museum of Northern Arizona (1956–1975). Danson served as a member of the WNPA board and the National Park System Advisory Board. He was awarded the Department of the Interior Conservation Award in 1986.

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The History of the Emperius Building

Just two years after Colorado became a state, a narrow-gauge train loaded with expectant settlers and their belongings stopped at a protected bend in the Rio Grande shaded by a grove of cottonwoods. In 1878 Alamosa—Spanish for cottonwood grove—was founded and is currently the largest town in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

During the early 1900s Alamosa grew to become the center of transportation, commerce and agriculture in the San Luis Valley. Many of the people that came on that train were German immigrants interested in the availability of opportunities in new towns and the abundance of cheap lands. Many of these immigrants had first settled in Chicago. After Chicago’s great fire of 1871, when the city was destroyed and thousands lost their lives and homes, a great exodus of families came westward in hopes of a new beginning. One of these newcomers to the San Luis Valley was the Emperius Family, who first settled in Del Norte then moved to the Alamosa.

Theo Emperius started the Chicago Meat Market on State Ave and Main St. in Alamosa which was later renamed the Emperius Bros. Meat Market when his sons Herman and Fritz Emperuis took it over. The brothers soon expanded their enterpise to include their own agricultural businesses. Fritz Emperius took over the meat market and livestock while Herman started a new business, the firm of Emperius & Dattelzweig bought, sold and shipped livestock, hides, pelts, hay, grain and farm produce.

Warehouse with, possibly, Herman Emperius and Albert Dattelzweig in Center. Courtesy of Alamosa Public Library

After great success, Herman Emperius was ready to take on a new challenge that benefited his own ambitions as well as the community he cared so much about. He wanted to develop a property in the heart of Alamosa. Originally in Alamosa, wooden commercial buildings had been erected on 6th Street across from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad tracks, and then north on State Ave. In the early 1900’s more architecturally sound masonry structures began to appear, and Herman Emperius is credited with two that still stand today: the Emperius Building(1908) and the American National Bank Building(1909).

Corner of Main Street and State Avenue, about 1910, with American National Bank(left) and Emperius Building(right).

Corner of Main Street and State Avenue 2018. Photo Katie Dokson

The highly visible 50-foot by 56-foot, two story red brick Emperius Building, sometimes called the Emperius Block, was constructed on the family’s property that once was home to Emperius Bros. Meat Market. Its construction typifies the construction of buildings during Alamosa’s boom years around 1910-1920s. The smooth brick exterior, corbelling, prominent chimneys at the parapets and other brickwork details distinguish the commercial block construction. It served retail businesses on the ground floor. One of the renters was the studio of O.T. Davis, as well-known local photographer. On the second floor were offices, with a stairway providing access from Main St, as it still does. Among the offices upstairs were town offices, the Alamosa Empire newspaper, and the office of then-State Senator and close friend of Herman, William H. Adams who founded Adams State.

Main Street and State Avenue, about 1930, with Emperius Building(right) and American National Bank(left). Courtesy of Alamosa Public Library

Herman Emperius went on the get involved with banking, the Alamosa Electric and Power company, went on to serve four-terms as Mayor of Alamosa, helped to found Alamosa County and became Alamosa County’s first County Commissioner, and later a mining company. He did not abandon his downtown development plan, and in the 1920’s, he tore down the family home on State Ave to make way for the construction of a one-story addition to the Emperius Building that extended north to the alley. These rental spaces opened onto State Ave’s sidewalk, and space in the main block was subdivided. Emperius also built an addition on the east side of the Emperius Building, now called the mall, from Main St. to the back alley. These new spaces housed a variety of businesses and offices, including the San Luis Hotel, and auto showroom and garage, an appliance store, and a bowling alley managed by Fritz’s son Ted. The family sold the entire Emperius Block in 1975 and most recently, the Milagros Coffee House, operated by La Puente Home, has occupied the ground level at the corner of State and Main.

If Alamosa is the hub of the San Luis Valley, then, for many community members, Milagros Coffee House is the social and cultural hub of downtown. Milagros was originally operated as a job readiness program site but the board of directors soon realized that it functioned very effectively as Alamosa’s “Community Living Room”. This open, sunny, colorful ad friendly place welcomes people who are homeless, as well as attorneys, teachers, students, tourists, families and others who pass through downtown Alamosa. This gathering place embodies the characteristics, heritage, and purpose of serving people wholeheartedly in the same spirit of its’ creator, Herman Emperius.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is home to Colorado’s oldest agricultural, Hispano and railroad communities. With over 11,000 years of documented inhabitation, this is where Colorado began.

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Local Heritage Area Awards Presented

On September 22 the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area presented five awards to local recipients during an event that featured speeches by two-time world champion Henry Cejudo and entrepreneur Frankie Sanchez. The awards honored and highlighted local organizations and individuals who have contributed to local heritage protection, promotion, education, and preservation.

The Signature Project of the Year was presented to the Cultural Awareness and Student Achievement (C.A.S.A.) Center at Adams State University for their ongoing cultural programming. In 2017 C.A.S.A. hosted a week of activities focused around Social Justice and Cesar Chavez. Events included: bread baking in hornos, historical research on the Hispano story of discrimination and the struggle to keep land and water, and artifacts from the California grape boycotts. Keynote presenter Maurice Jourdane shared about the contribution to the advancement of farm workers in the fields of California by outlawing the required use of “el cortito”(the short handed hoe), the cause of severe and permanent crippling of hundreds of thousands of field owners. The C.A.S.A center, opened March 2012, fosters an environment for all students and community that promotes learning, celebrates cultures, develops leadership and student success with a global perspective. In addition to the many cultural activities promoted through ASU C.A.S.A., all are welcome to visit the home-like environment for studying, eating, cooking, watching TV/movies, or just hanging out. The C.A.S.A. motto is “Where strangers become friends, and friends become family.” Visit the C.A.S.A. Facebook page to learn about special events and activities.

The Youth of the Year awards were presented to two local youth for their exemplary contribution and participation in heritage programming. The awards were presented to Damion Garcia and Lindsey Sandoval. Damian participated in and took on a leadership role at an Archeology Camp. The multi-day camp was put on by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area in collaboration with Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and Fort Garland Museum. This program introduced students to the discipline of prehistoric and historic archeology through place-based learning. Students went on several site visits on state and federal lands to experience hands-on field methods. Lindsey Sandoval also has been actively involved in SdCNHA’s Youth Ambassador Program whose goal is to teach stewardship of culture, heritage and history to the next generation. Lindsey assisted with collecting oral histories in Conejos County and the Youth Walking Leaders program. Any high school or college student wishing to become a youth ambassador can obtain more information on the organization’s website listed below.

Volunteer of the Year was earned by Jonathan Armenta for his selfless contribution of 198 hours of service to various SdCNHA projects and events. Mr. Armenta, along with many other volunteers made possible the vast variety of work conducted throughout the three counties of Alamosa, Conejos, and Costilla.

The Grant of the Year Award was presented for the Congresso de Acequias to the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association. The Congresso de Acequias is an annual event that brings acequia irrigators together to share not only concerns and issues, but to also share knowledge, heritage and legal information. The original settlers of Southern Colorado brought with them a form of land settlement and irrigation that was based on principles of equity, shared scarcity and cooperation in which water was viewed as a resource in place, rather than a commodity. This water system of man made ditches is called an acequia. Acequias continue to be the lifeblood of residents in Southern Costilla County – they not only serve to provide the water for the farms on which 270 families depend, but they also serve as a conduit for community services and support. For more information on SdCAA please visit

SdCNHA would like to thank all those who took the time to attend the event and who generously donated. Funds raised at this event went to local youth history fair scholarships. These scholarships are open to all San Luis Valley Students who participate in the National History Fair Day with a topic about local history. For more information about SdCNHA please visit

Thank you to our sponsors, services donated and volunteers: Jason and Julie Ramstetter, Tyler Eagan, Scott Schweizer, Adams State Wrestling Team, Alamosa Wrestling Team, Alamosa High School, Grizzly MMA, Alamosa County Local Marketing District Board, Alamosa State Bank, Alpine Electric, Alta Fuels, Chavez Southwest Market, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, GWI Security, Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton, La Jara Pharmacy, Nino’s del Sol, O&V Printing, San Luis Valley Brewing Company, The Colorado Trust, Vinrock Media, Zebra 97.1, the SdCNHA Board of Directors and Volunteers.

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SDCNHA Seeking Board Members

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area was designated by Congress in 2009 for the purpose of providing an “integrated and cooperative approach for the protection, enhancement, and interpretation of the natural, cultural, historic, scenic and recreational resources of the Heritage Area.” Stunningly beautiful natural resources and a rich mixture of settlements converge here to make this area one of the most unique and well-preserved cultural landscapes in the nation.
The SdCNHA Board of Directors has three primary goals that guide their planning and implementation: Support the development of a vibrant heritage tourism sector that stimulates preservation, economic development, and community revitalization; Tell the stories of the SdCNHA in ways that build community pride and support preservation, living traditions, economic development, and community revitalization; Cultivate excellent management that provides regional leadership, reflects community values, and achieves sustainability. Past local projects have included historic building rehabilitation, interpretation of historic and scenic/recreational sites, educational programming and cultural events, and documentation of culturally significant components of traditional ways of life.
Eligible applicants must reside within SdCNHA boundaries: Alamosa, Costilla and Conejos Counties. The position is volunteer based and requires a commitment of one board meeting a month and participation on one subcommittee.
Applications can be found at and applicants are encouraged to visit the SdCNHA’s website and review the organization’s Goals and Objectives, found on the Management Plan page:
Completed applications and attachments should be mailed or hand delivered by October 24th at 5pm to: Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, Attention: “Board Position” P.O. Box 844 Alamosa, CO 81101

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Hispano Heroes to Speak in Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area(SdCNHA) is proud to present an inspirational evening with Olympic Gold Medalist in Wrestling, National Wrestling Hall of Fame Member and UFC World Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo. He will speak to the community about perseverance, dedication, finding your passion and having pride in oneself on September 22, 2018 at the Alamosa High School Gymnasium at 6pm. This event takes place during September, which is Hispanic Heritage Month and a perfect time to honor Hispano Heros Henry Cejudo and Frankie Sanchez. This event is free for all youth and those with student IDs. The doors will open at 5:30pm with an adult entry fee of $5 to be collected at the door. All proceeds will go towards heritage area youth history fair scholarships. All students who compete in the regional history fair this year with a topic about local history will be eligible to compete for scholarship funds. SdCNHA will hand out 5 special awards to local recipients during the evening as well.


Cejudo grew up in south central L.A., the son of undocumented immigrant parents and youngest of 7 children. He grew up poor, and his father – who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction – was absent for large stretches of his life and passed away when Henry was only 20. Henry captured four high school wrestling state championships (two in Colorado, two in Arizona). He was awarded (the title) ASICS National High School Wrestler of the Year (2006).
He participated in two Junior World Championships, placing fifth in 2005 and second in 2006. That same year, Henry became the first high schooler to win U.S. Nationals since USA Wrestling’s formation as the sport’s national body in 1983. Cejudo decided to skip wrestling at the college level and instead accepted an offer from USA wrestling to train at their main facilities in Colorado Springs, Colorado.Following successful performances at the Pan American Games and Pan American Championships, Cejudo qualified for the 2008 Olympics in last place and told he really had no shot at the gold. Not only did he win gold, at the time, he was the youngest American to ever become an Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling.
In January of 2013 Henry announced his plans to begin training for a MMA career. He has had 13 professional wins and 2 loss. One loss was his first match up with Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in 2016 for the Flyweight title. He lost the fight via TKO in the first round being dropped with a variety of strikes. Henry took this loss as a reason to train harder for the next two years in hopes of a rematch.
His nickname “The Messenger” comes from the belief that his success is a platform to spread a greater message: No situation is too difficult to overcome. “You can accomplish anything that you dedicate yourself to. Think how many people struggle across the world, across the country. I know anything is possible if you set your mind, your body, your soul and your faith to it. MMA, fighting, winning the Olympics – it’s only a platform for me to help others. It’s just a tool,” Cejudo says. “I have a purpose and a meaning in life, and I have to fulfill that. Being a champion is great, but more importantly than that, you get to be an inspiration and a role model to other people.” Henry has also authored the book American Victory ,that the Los Angeles Times called, “Compelling…American Victory represents the triumph of the human spirit.”

Also speaking at the event is Frankie Sanchez Sr., an alumni of Adams State, member of Team Cejudo and entrepreneur. Frankie Sanchez Sr. is a native of Colorado and his family history traces back to the Spanish and Native Americans who settled in San Luis, Colorado. He won 6 Colorado Golden Gloves Boxing Championships and after a great high school wrestling career he received a wrestling scholarship to Adams State. After competing in wrestling for five years at Adams State, Frankie turned professional in the sport of boxing. He fought 32 pro fights and competed for 3 professional championships that were televised on HBO, Showtime and Pay Per View Television. After his professional Sports career, Frankie used his college degree to enter into many different careers fields. He was a youth counselor, college recruiter, Jr. High and high school wrestling coach. He also did private security for movie stars such as The Karate Kid Ralph Machio and Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.
In 2013 Frankie took a chance and followed his love and passion for food and giving back to others and purchased a used hot dog cart. His goal was to create and serve food that he grew up eating in Southern Colorado. His idea of serving customers tacos, burritos, nachos and quesadillas along with green and red chili and his sriracha ranch sauce has really taken off. His company North of the Border Grill is now one of the top food truck companies in Colorado. He now has 2 food trucks, 7 food carts and a private restaurant in the Denver Tech Center. His company is now partnered with four multi million dollar companies. Iheart radio, American Financing, 505 salsa and Flagship Food Group. His startup taco cart company, that he established with $700.00 only five years ago and is only opened part time, is now selling between $500,000.00 and $1,000,000.00 per year.
Frankie’s goal was to always give back to his community and motivate others to become successful. In 2008 Henry Cejudo contacted Frankie Sanchez for assistance in putting together a fundraiser to help some of Henry’s family members travel to China to support him with his dream of becoming an Olympic champion. The fundraiser was a success and His family was able to travel to China and watch Henry shock the world and achieve the biggest accomplishment in his life.

After the Olympic Games in 2008 Frankie and Henry traveled across the USA visiting different schools, churches, book stores and colleges offering motivational speeches and wrestling camps.
On August 4,2018 Henry Cejudo once again made history and upset the pound for pound greatest fighter of all time, Demetris Johnson, to become the first ever Olympic and UFC champion. After celebrating a victory tour across the world in August, the next stop is here in Alamosa, Colorado to attend the Hispano Hero’s event hosted by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. Both Henry and Frankie are excited to return to the SLV where the journey to inspire others started in 2008. They love the support from the SLV and hope that with the new stories and experiences they have had and that they will share with you at this event that they can motivate people to go out and accomplish anything they want. They both believe that hard work, dedication and sacrifice is the key to success. They are both living proof that no matter where you come from or how many obstacles you have to cross, anything is possibles.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) was established by Congress in 2009 as being an important and unique part of the story of the founding of America. It is richly layered with stories of people, their traditions and arts, their histories and breathtaking landscapes. SdCNHA, which is a non-profit 50s located in south-central Colorado and covers more than 3,000 square miles of the San Luis Valley including Alamosa, Costilla and Conejos counties; the Great Sand Dunes National Park; and the Alamosa, Baca and Monte Vista Wildlife Refuges. The mission of SdCNHA is to promote, preserve, protect, and interpret its profound historical, religious, environmental, geographic, geologic, cultural, and linguistic resources. These efforts will contribute to the overall national story, engender a spirit of pride and self-reliance.

SdCNHA would like to thank sponsors that help make this event possible: Colorado Trust, Alamosa County Local Marketing District, Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton,
Alamosa State Bank, La Jara Pharmacy Health Mart Center, San Luis Valley Brewing Company, Nino’s del Sol, Alta Fuels, VinRock Media, Chavez Southwest Market,
Alpine Electric, Grizzly MMA and the Zebra 97.1

For more event info and information on youth history scholarships visit or find us on Facebook at Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

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Internship Opportunity

National Parks Intermountain Regional Office announces Internship opportunity with Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

Click below for details.


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