Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 16, 2019


Roger Peet, artist, (503) 753-7027,
Todd Schulke, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 574-5962,
Diana Ingalls Leyba, Mimbres Regional Arts Council, (575) 519-0548,

Endangered Species Mural to Be Celebrated July 19 in New Mexico

Gila Wilderness Species Featured in National Mural Project

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Mimbres Regional Arts Council’s Youth Mural Program and Western New Mexico University will unveil a new endangered species mural on Friday, July 19.

The mural, which is 75 feet long and 11 feet tall, is the 20th installment in the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Mural Project and the arts council’s 71st mural. It features five Gila Wilderness species: the Mexican gray wolf, Mexican spotted owl, Gila trout, Gila mayfly and narrow-headed garter snake.

The mural was designed by campers from the arts council’s Youth Mural Program and interns. It was facilitated by artists Roger Peet, coordinator of the Endangered Species Mural Project, along with Alison Phillips and Diana Ingalls Leyba. Patrice Mutchnick from Heart of the Gila provided activities focused on endangered species education.

Artists will be available for interviews at the site this week and at the celebration. Campers, interns and university staff will also be available for interviews.

What: Gila Wilderness endangered species mural unveiling

When: Friday, July 19, 12-1 p.m.

Where: Barnard Hall, 1000 W. College Avenue, Silver City, NM 88061

“It’s a wonderful thing when different entities come together for the common good,” said Diana Ingalls Leyba, MRAC Youth Mural Program director/artist. “The MRAC Youth Mural Program and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Mural Project have come to together to share their processes. Our 40 local youth are benefiting from visiting muralist Roger Peet, and he has gotten to experience our youth driven design process. We’re very grateful for the support from WNMU president Dr. Joseph Shepard and director of WNMU’s outdoor program Dr. Kathy Whiteman for providing us with the mural wall and University classrooms and resources.”

“The students painting this mural will be the stewards of these species in the future,” said Roger Peet, Endangered Species Mural Project coordinator. “It's been an honor and a pleasure to see their investment in the lives of the endangered animals that share their space.”

“Young people are eager for knowledge about the environment and many are already well versed in the threats to wildlife and wild places,” said Patrice Mutchnick, founder of Heart of the Gila. “The campers this week took their passion for protecting nature and directed it into creating this mural.”

“About one-third of New Mexico’s 120 plus threatened and endangered species occur in the Gila Region,” said Dr. Kathy Whiteman, director of WNMU’s outdoor program.

“Some, like the Mexican grey wolf, Gila trout and Mexican spotted owl, are fairly well-known and charismatic. Others, like the narrow-headed garter snake and Gila mayfly are less well known, and this mural is a great conversation starter to connect people to these species who make their home in one of the most remote, rugged, and biologically diverse areas in North America — the Gila.”

Species Background
The Mexican gray wolf is the smallest gray wolf subspecies in North America, and one of the rarest and most endangered mammals on the continent. Only around 130 Mexican gray wolves roam the wild in New Mexico and Arizona where they are threatened by human persecution and the border wall that would separate them from wolves in Mexico.

With a wingspan of nearly 4 feet, the Mexican spotted owl is one of the largest owls in North America. It nests in cavities in old-growth forests. Almost 90 percent of known owl territories are in Arizona and New Mexico.

The narrow-headed garter snake lives near streams in the Southwest. The thin shape of its head helps it swim in the current, and its grasping tail can latch onto rocks and act as an anchor. Females give live birth to about a dozen half-foot long babies that are on their own once born. These friendly snakes are highly endangered and need our help to survive.

The Gila mayfly is known only from a small part of the Gila watershed in wilderness in Grant County. It is known for its fast flight and is the only mayfly species that occurs only in New Mexico and nowhere else. The species hasn’t been seen since 1969 but conservationists are hopeful that it still exists and are seeking Endangered Species Act protection for it.

Native to high-elevation streams in the Gila River drainage, the Gila trout is one of the rarest trout species in the country with only 17 surviving populations. Gila trout can grow to be 1.5 feet long and are gold, copper, or greenish-yellow. Thanks to the protections of the Endangered Species Act, the Gila trout is moving toward recovery.

Endangered Species Mural Project Background
The Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Mural Project has installed 20 murals in public spaces around the country. The project collaborates with artists, scientists, and organizers to celebrate local endangered species and encourage the public to make connections between conservation and community strength. Other murals already in place include borderland species such as the ocelot in El Paso, Texas; the Sonoran pronghorn in Yuma, Ariz.; the yellow-billed cuckoo in Los Angeles, Calif.; and the Austin blind salamander in Austin.

Mimbres Region Arts Council Youth Mural Program
The Mimbres Region Arts Council’s Youth Mural Program was developed in 2002 by Diana Ingalls Leyba and Faye McCalmont (then executive director of MRAC). Each mural is facilitated by a lead artist and assistant artist who are paired by the program director based on their expertise, their large format work, their unique style, and their experience in working with diverse populations and students ages 6 through 18. MRAC mural artists work with elementary, middle and high school students in the Grant County area. Murals are paint, tile mosaics, or a combination of both. The MRAC Youth Mural Program goes into the schools, runs a yearly summer camp, and (thanks to a new grant) has a mural restoration crew. The program partners and collaborates with many entities such as Aldo Leopold’s YCC Program, the Town of Silver City, and now the Center for Biological Diversity and Heart of the Gila.

Program Goals include teaching students about the history and culture of their community through the arts, connecting students to their peers, local artists and community members, teaching students that pubic art can enrich, enhance, and affect the quality of life in their community, encouraging students to engage in beautifying their community. In addition, students learn problem solving, working collaboratively while creating something bigger themselves. Feedback from participants says they have an ownership and connection that instills pride and acts as a beacon when they are at a low point; they see something enduring for themselves and future generations.

More: MRAC, Linda Gray, (575) 538-2505,

Heart of the Gila
Heart of the Gila seeks to conserve our watersheds and educate children, adults, and decision makers about the ecological, social, economic and cultural values of rivers in New Mexico and the bioregions of the greater Southwest. Heart of the Gila collaborates with partners from diverse communities, organizations and agencies, providing biological research, conservation and ecological restoration, environmental education, public lands stewardship and advocacy for wild places.

Contact: Patrice Mutchnick, (575) 574-8342,,


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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