There is something special and almost sacred about a first impression.

When faced with something new and mysterious, we tend to pay closer attention. Every slight gesture or nuance of a stranger commands our attention because we don’t yet know what is and isn’t significant about this unknown thing. Because we have no history with which to color it, our first impression of something new can be the most revelatory, and is almost always the most exciting.

My name is Mason Voehl. I’m the new Executive Director of the Amargosa Conservancy. I have been at various times a community organizer, a backcountry guide, and a field educator teaching environmental ethics. I am always a writer. And I am by all accounts a newcomer to the Amargosa River and Basin country.

Upon joining the Amargosa Conservancy, I find myself in that thrilling state of first impressions. I am in the process of meeting the Amargosa: the lands, waters, flora, fauna, and people that constitute this vast and exceedingly complex landscape. I am meeting the Amargosa firsthand with time spent with my boots on its trails, watching and listening to the myriad forms of life that hum in the mesquite canopies and marshlands. I am also meeting the Amargosa secondhand through reading the stories and histories of those who have called these lands home for years, decades, and millenia.

Grasses flair orange and yellow in the Shoshone wetlands.

Finally, I am meeting the Amargosa through writing. When faced with something new, or large, or complex, or all of the above, my habit has always been to write about it. Writing is a practiced meditation that helps the writer — me — unbury and untangle critical insights gained through my experience. Real understanding only ever comes through both witnessing and reflecting on one’s experiences, and the act of writing requires one to do both.

And so I am thrilled to announce this new series on our blog called “An Amargosa Moment.” This series will provide opportunities for myself and others to share about what we have discovered through our encounters with the Amargosa riverlands. It is my hope that through exchanging our impressions — both those that came first and those that came later — we may build a richer understanding of this place and thereby emerge better equipped to know how best to support its future as a community.

Stay tuned for many Amargosa Moments to come in the next few months and make sure to subscribe to our newsletter!

Have an “Amargosa Moment” to share? Please reach out at with questions and submissions.

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