To honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we're talking with members of our conservation community about their experiences and relationship with public lands.

Here, we talk with Kyle Hamada, Communications Director for Friends of the Inyo

What's your favorite memory in a National Conservation Lands unit or other public land? 

It’s hard to pick a single favorite memory, but one of my favorite times to look back on was when I briefly worked as a route surveyor in the California Desert. Every week I would drive to the GPS tracks I was given and document the condition of those routes. Between classes and work, I would drive out alone to explore these areas, conduct my surveying, and camp overnight. To this day, some of the places that I visited are still my favorite places to camp and explore. Looking back, I’m thankful for all of the experience that these trips gave to me: the confidence gained from solo exploration, the practice to develop my camping systems, and for the chance to visit so many new beautiful places I never would have seen otherwise. Today, we at Friends of the Inyo are actually working to protect some of my favorite areas, including Little Cactus Flat, a California Desert National Conservation Land. 

Tell me about someone who has influenced or inspired your work?

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and mentorship from my former professor at CSU Long Beach, Dr. Monica Argandoña. She taught me and my classmates about environmental threats that public lands in the California Desert are facing. We went on field trips to places like Surprise Canyon Wilderness and Conglomerate Mesa, inspiring in me a deep appreciation for the desert. She provided me with the opportunity to participate in multiple internships with the Bureau of Land Management. She started a nonprofit called Take Root Gardens, putting organic gardens in low-income schools in Los Angeles. She's a true champion of public lands and environmental justice who continues to influence and inspire my work today.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I worked as a photographer and videographer through college, capturing weddings, events, portraits, and more. This experience taught me valuable skills like using a camera, editing photos and videos, and valuing my time and work. I still often shoot portraits for friends, most recently having shot engagement photos for close friends in the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area. People might be more surprised to know that I also once worked as a wedding singer!

What do you do when you aren't caring for America's National Conservation Lands?

My answer today is different than it would have been just a few months ago. Living in Bishop, CA, my wife and I would typically spend our weekends climbing and camping all over the Eastern Sierra and California. Today, we are making the most of our time at home by working out, practicing yoga, walking, biking, cooking, playing games, and video-chatting with our friends and family. We’re thankful to be surrounded by such beautiful landscapes, even if we are just looking out at them from our neighborhood for now. It will make returning to normal that much more special.

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We’re the only nonprofit leading a national movement of community-based advocates who care for America’s NATIONAL CONSERVATION LANDS of natural, historical, cultural and recreational significance.
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