Engaging Latinos in supporting coastal conservation

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MARCE GUTIÉRREZ-GRAUDIŅŠ and JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ for The Californian

Latino Conservation Week kicked off July 16 with 17 nationwide events aimed at highlighting and promoting the beautiful public lands available to Latino communities. The weeklong event was a fantastic opportunity to explore our national parks, public lands and other favorite outdoor areas, and also to engage Latinos in the important work of advocating for our public lands.

The celebration reminded us how essential it is to preserve our national treasures and create equitable access to these important spaces. We are working to honor and protect these lands through an effort to expand the California Coastal National Monument to include five beautiful places along the state’s 1,100-mile shoreline. Public access to these coastal beauties would be guaranteed by the designation, in addition to permanently protecting the lands.

This level of access opens the door to a bevy of new recreational options, a tremendous opportunity for Latino communities. A 2012 Sierra Club survey found that 94% of Latino voters say participating in outdoor activities like fishing, picnics, camping, and visiting national parks and monuments is important to them and their families. The expansion would attract outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life, opening the door for a seemingly-limitless experience of the California coast.

And the designation’s significance is about more than just access – it’s about conservation, the primary tenant behind the Monument’s expansion. An expansion would name each proposed land a unit of the Coastal Monument, highlighting each site’s unique characteristics and awarding priority attention from federal land management. It would allow important management opportunities to sites like Cotoni-Coast Dairies, currently closed to the public after being transferred to federal ownership. It would build strong, diverse economies through newfound tourism and recreation, and increase resources to areas of need. It would protect the breathtaking ecological habitats of millions of land and sea animals, from Humboldt all the way to Orange County.

There is nowhere else in the world like these lands. Like any other ecological wonder, they simply cannot be reproduced or replicated once they’re gone, and it’s up to us to maintain that magic for future generations. We urge President Obama to use the executive power given to him by the Antiquities Act to issue a presidential memorandum and help expand coastal protection to these five areas. There is still much to be done to engage diverse communities in the outdoors, but protecting and opening doors to these public lands is a clear first step toward that goal.

Please join us by learning more about the sites proposed for protection at yourcaliforniacoast.org. Together we can promote equitable access and protect these extraordinary lands.

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš is the Founder and Director of AZUL, a California-based organization working to inspire Latino communities to care for and protect our oceans.

José González is the Founder of Latino Outdoors, a unique Latino-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education and connecting families to nature.

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