McCarthy, who currently serves as the Associate State Director at The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico, will be honored with a Distinguished Alumna Award from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) at the annual Reunion Weekend, October 6-8. On Saturday morning, Oct. 7, she will present a talk in Kroon Hall titled “Wildfire, Water Source Pollution, and the Rio Grande Water Fund.”
At TNC, McCarthy oversees programs in the Rio Grande, Gila, and San Juan Basins, including freshwater and climate and energy programs, and a new urban initiative. But it’s TNC’s Rio Grand Water Fund, which she founded and directs, where she’s truly revolutionizing the way forests are managed in the increasingly arid Southwest.
The Water Fund, a network of nearly 60 charter signatories, helps to secure water resources for one million people by restoring 600,000 acres of forest in northern New Mexico. These forests filter and store a majority of the state’s water supply. But overcrowded forests cannot function properly, and frequent, intense wildfires and post-fire flooding can cause extensive soil erosion, leading to debris flows that degrade the water quality for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Native American Pueblos, and other communities downstream.
McCarthy, who previously spent eight years as associate director of the New Mexico-based Forest Guild, credits her training at F&ES with professors Herb Bormann, Tom Siccama, and Dave Smith with teaching her an ecosystems approach to land management. “At the time, weaving traditional forestry with ecosystem science was not very common, but F&ES was doing it,” she said.