Our Origin Story

Talking Talons was founded in the fall of 1988 by Wendy Crouch Aeschliman, then serving as school nurse of Roosevelt Middle School in Tijeras, NM. As a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University and a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wendy often gave community wildlife presentations to teach others about the live non-releasable birds of prey in her care. The Talking Talons program began as a means of motivating and supporting a small group of youth who frequently visited Wendy’s office with complaints of stomach or headaches, but in reality, seemed frustrated due to their inability to successfully cope with the social and academic pressures of adolescence. Talking Talons was conceived with the purpose of raising the self-esteem of these students, placing them in roles they felt were important.

With a small burrowing owl named “Bo” and a few other educational animals, Wendy and the students embarked on a remarkable and successful journey, resulting in program expansion to many other schools in the succeeding years. Youth were captivated by the Talking Talons birds of prey and developed an active interest in learning about environmental science and public speaking. Youth were trained to be peer educators, teaching environmental and civic responsibility through wildlife presentations which reached approximately three thousand in that first year alone.

Talking Talons Through the Years


The Talking Talons program at Roosevelt Middle School received the New Mexico Research and Study Council’s First Place Quality Education Award.

Talking Talons Youth Leadership was incorporated as a non-profit agency, under the initial guidance of Founding Board Members Catherine Foster, Jeanette Ricci, and Wendy Aeschliman.


Talking Talons Youth Leadership received a “Special Merit” award from Renew America, a national environmental organization based in Washington, D.C. Talking Talons was honored by leaders of the nation’s environmental community for its success in protecting the environment, inspiring others to take environmental action, and reaching community goals.


Talking Talons was one of 21 successful programs in the nation identified by the U.S. Department of Justice to be featured in their publication Youth, Drugs and Violence, Innovative state and Local Programs.

The first Talking Talons Leadership Center in Tijeras, NM, opened to house educational animals and administrative offices, as well as provide a location for field trips and other youth programming.


The Talking Talons Community Thrift Store opened its doors in Cedar Crest, NM, where it continues to sell locally donated goods at low prices, with all proceeds benefiting Talking Talons animals and youth programming.


The TTYL Youth Conservation Crew organized the first annual WILDFEST event, a community education day featuring environmental educators, youth development organizations, live wildlife, and fun for all ages.


The National Center for Substance Abuse Prevention gave TTYL’s program national recognition as an Exemplary Substance Abuse Prevention Program.

Youth Conservation Corps member Andrew Rominger was one of 10 youth in the country to win a 2003 President’s Environmental Youth Award in recognition of the environmental stewardship and advocacy skills he developed at TTYL. 


TTYL was awarded “Model Program” status through the National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs & Practices. 

TTYL developed and implemented wildlife education programs, brining non-releasable rehabilitated animals into classrooms.


TTYL was awarded the Community Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) grant sponsored by the US Forest Service, Cibola Forest District. This 3-year project gathered a group of more than 20 partner organizations.


TTYL completed a Bernalillo County-sponsored education program in 3 classrooms.

TTYL became involved in two other CFRP projects within the Cibola National Forest. TTYL provided trained educators who participated in 60 hrs. of ecological monitoring and data collection.


TTYL became a member of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (USDA Forest Service initiative) committed to working in partnership to connect youth and veterans with job and training opportunities protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s natural and cultural resources.


TTYL received New Mexico Governor’s Award for Youth Leadership for work on the project grant. 

TTYL was awarded a Next Generation of Conservationists grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), which allowed for the hiring of a small conservation crew to conduct restoration work. TTYL also hosted youth career fairs.


TTYL continued work on grant awards from Bernalillo County’s Health and Human Services, Amigos Bravos, EPA urban Waters , the Forest Service’s CFRP, Albuquerque Community Foundation (ACF) award, the Forest Service’s Even More Kids in the Winter Woods”, and a second award from NFWF.

TTYL launched the Youth Advisory Council to give youth voice and commentary to agency partners on a variety of land management and use considerations.


Bernalillo County Office of Health and Social Services continued it’s funding for TTYL 26-visit conservation education classroom program. A total of 88 students participated in the program where they learned science information, critical thinking skills, and increased their public speaking talents.

TTYL was awarded two Every Kid in a Park grants from the USDA Forest Service.

TTYL partnered with the Forest Stewards Guild to deliver a middle school fire ecology program.



TTYL continued work on grant funded projects from the Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency,  NFWF and Bernalillo County Open Space.

TTYL’s Youth Advisory Council held a Youth Summit at the at the Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center.


TTYL continued work on projects funded by Every Kid in a Park, CFRP. New Mexico Energy Mineral and Natural Resources Department and Bernalillo County Open Space.

The U.S. Forest Service awarded TTYL with the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) grant to educate and inspire high school and college age youth to be environmental stewards.


TTYL continued its collaborative award from the NFWF 5 Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant. United Way funded a Capacity Building grant, with which TTYL contracted with Dr. Carmen Sorge to create an evaluation system to measure the impact of TTYL’s various programs.

TTYL also supported: Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District’s Arroyo Classroom, The Nature Conservancy’s Collaborative Forest Restoration Project, City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Explorer Camp.



TTYL was awarded a grant from The Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department to provide Virtual Environmental Education Sessions to 4th and 5th grade youth.

TTYL completed a suite of environmetnal education programs funded by City of Albuquerque Open Space (Nature in Your Neighborhood),  Bernalillo County Open Space (wildlife presentations) and United Way.


TTYL welcomed new leadership, and embarks of the development of a new program vision and framework.

TTYL is awarded the EPAS Watershed Stewards grant to provide watershed education field trips to Albuquerque youth. Program development funding is provided by United Way.