This week is the third annual Latino Conservation Week, a chance for Latinos all across the country to demonstrate their passion for enjoying and protecting public lands. Few places is that passion more evident than here in California.
The spirit of conservation is woven throughout our state’s history. It was here in California that John Muir founded the Sierra Club and led a movement to establish our first national parks, including Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.
That spirit continued in the artwork of Ansel Adams, the California native whose photographs uniquely captured the beauty of our public lands. His prints made nature more accessible for the average person and inspired a new generation of conservationists. Thanks to his photographs, places like Kings Canyon National Park are now protected for all to enjoy.
And that spirit lives on today.
Since Congress passed the 1994 desert conservation bill, which created Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve, we’ve tried to build on that legacy by preserving even more of the California desert.
Earlier this year, President Obama created three new national monuments in the desert: the Mojave Trails National Monument, the Sand to Snow National Monument and Castle Mountains National Monuments. These monument designation would have never come to fruition if not for overwhelming public support.
Latino conservation groups played a significant role in building that support. Last October, I held a public meeting in Whitewater Canyon with the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture on the proposed national monuments designations. It was encouraging to see leaders from the Council of Mexican Federations, Hispanic Access Foundation and the Por La Creacion Faith-based Alliance on hand to lend their voice of support. Additionally, over 100 Latino faith leaders from Assemblies of God Southern Pacific District signed a letter to President Obama urging him to take action to protect the California desert.
Members of these groups have also been working to educate Latino communities on the value of preserving the California desert. They have organized hikes, camping trips and other events so more people can experience first-hand the rugged beauty of the desert.
For many, that first exposure to vast California desert is enough to inspire a lifetime of outdoor stewardship. Such was the case for a city-girl from San Francisco.
I can still remember the first time I saw the shadows of the Joshua trees as they fell across the landscape, the wildflowers blooming in the spring and the brilliant array of stars that lit up the night sky. I remember the feeling of first seeing big-horn sheep playing in the mountains or an 80-year old tortoise crawling along the desert floor.
I realized during those early trips that the California desert is a major part of our cultural heritage — a tribute to what the American West once was. And I’m proud of our efforts to keep it pristine so future generations can share those same experiences.
But our work is not done.
National monument designation was an important step to preserving more public spaces in the California desert. However, we must continue to look for new opportunities to preserve even more parts of the California desert and expand protections for other public lands.
The Latino community will play a major role in those future efforts. Thanks to events like Latino Conservation Week, more Californian Latinos will be encouraged to experience the outdoors and will be inspired to join the effort to preserve and protect our public lands.
The strength of any movement can be measured by the diversity of its members. That is why I am proud to see the spirit of conservation live on in the Latino community and throughout all of California.
As #LatinoConservationWeek marches on, we share a reflection on summer at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, written by Hispanic Access Foundation intern Michael Bonilla.
As an intern with the Hispanic Access Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service I have built some strong connections to our local and state wildlife. Gratefully, through the wildlife refuge system in Rhode Island, I have come to understand that I don’t need to visit the rain forest to experience nature. So far, it has been an inspiring experience to get to work with so many scientists that are so passionate about the protection and conservation of wildlife — from wetland and salt marsh habitats to birds such as saltmarsh sparrows to piping plovers. Thus, participating in the environmental education program I get to inform and help bridge a connection between kids and their natural, wild surroundings.
On the other hand, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership (PPUWRP). It has been an eye-opening experience, participating in environmental initiatives in the city of Providence, RI to connect urban communities with parks as natural settings. My goal with PPUWRP is to provide support and educational programming for families and to use parks and local green spaces to educate and to spark interest in the wildlife refuge.
Whether we are in the woods away from city or in the middle of downtown, there are learning and connection opportunities that community members can build with nature. From counting oyster catchers in Sandy Point Island to carrion beetles in a park right in the city, this internship has allowed me to realize that conservation and natural experiences can take place anywhere, and that all the members of a community can conserve our local ecosystems and habitats.
For Latino Conservation Week (July 16-24), Michael will be leading a week-long summer camp called Urban Explorers where kids can discover nature in neighborhoods, parks, green spaces and backyards.
From the Conservation Lands Foundation Blog
2016 marks the third annual Latino Conservation Week, an initiative of Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) to harness the Latino community’s passion for the outdoors and spotlight its role in conservation. It started with just 17 partners and 17 events. Now, there are over 100 partners and events that are engaging Latino communities throughout that are engaging Latino communities throughout the nation.
Conservation Lands Foundation is proud to support and celebrate Latino Conservation Week, and recognize the hard work of our partners in organizing many great events across four states – Nevada, Texas, Colorado and California! This is the first year that some of our partners will be participating – the same organizations and communities that helped permanently protect California’s Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments, New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments, and Nevada’s Basin and Range National Monument.
Some Friends Groups and Partners that have joined forces to get involved in Latino Conservation Week include the Mojave Desert Land Trust, the Council of Mexican Federations, Por La Creacion, the Native American Lands Conservancy, Frontera Land Alliance, Conejos Clean Water, Friends of Basin and Range National Monument and Friends of Gold Butte. Events include moonlight hikes, cultural heritage hikes, panel discussions, a Spanish-language native plants workshop, an intercultural roundtable with the Native American community, and many more. These events show that conservation works best when it is collaborative, inclusive, and empowering.
At the Native Plants Workshop youth learned how to make a tasty, medicinal tea from Yerba Santa, and after the night hike in the Mecca Hills Wilderness–an outstanding National Conservation Lands site in Southern California–a participant said it was one of the most marvelous experiences of her life, not just because of the natural beauty of the hills under the moonlight but because she had never seen her family so united, helping each other along the long, sandy wash.
Conservation Lands Foundation is proud to support #Latinos4Conservation and Latino Conservation Week as a catalyst for collaboration in the effort to help a broader cross-section of Americans experience, enjoy and connect with their public lands.
By Senator Harry Reid Entravision
Nevada is known for its rich natural heritage. From Lake Tahoe, our treasured Jewel of the Sierras, to the mountains and high deserts of the east; the seas of sagebrush of the north to the red rock canyons of the south, Nevada is as beautiful as it is unique. Millions of Americans and visitors from all around the world come to Nevada to hike our mountain ranges, hunt and fish, and enjoy our stunning wild landscapes.
I can’t think of a more perfect and peaceful place than the Nevada wilderness. I still remember how as a little boy growing up in Nevada, I would spend countless hours enjoying its picturesque landscapes and vast array of exotic wild life. These experiences fueled my determination to preserve our ecological treasures and ensure future generations can discover and enjoy their magnificence.
Over the past thirty years I have worked vigorously to protect areas that represent Nevada’s stark beauty, culture and history. I have led efforts to: protect millions of acres of public lands for future
generations; make our state a leader in renewable energy and close the toxic Reid-Gardner coal plant; protect and restore Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe; and conserve our state’s limited water supplies. I have also secured hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in clean energy, and for restoration and conservation projects in the Silver State.
Last year, I was honored to work with President Obama on his designation of Basin and Range National Monument in eastern Nevada. And while there is no guarantee that we will get this done, I have asked the President to build on the successful protection of the Basin and Range National Monument and use the Antiquities Act to preserve one of the most incredible, at risk places in our state: Gold Butte.
As Nevadans, it is our duty to protect the environment for future generations, and there is no better time to start than during Latino Conservation Week. We can do so by making simple changes in our daily lives – by recycling and saving electricity and protecting special outdoor places – but also, by demanding that our leaders in Congress take action against climate change.
I hope Latinos and all Nevadans will join me in my life-long effort to actively support commonsense policies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, promote clean energy choices, and protect our beautiful lands. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.
From Public News Service
BALTIMORE — It's Latino Conservation Week, and groups across the nation are focused on access to public lands for Latino families. All this week, groups will be hosting events outdoors to promote recreation and the protection of natural resources.
The week is a way for Latino communities to demonstrate their passion for the outdoors, said Maite Arce, president of the Hispanic Access Foundation - which started the initiative in 2014. But that's not its only purpose.
"It's also an opportunity to make sure that the Latino community is aware of other places that may not be traditionally visited by us: trails and parks and waterways."
The community has a strong commitment to protecting public lands, Arce said. Maryland's population is 8 percent Hispanic, according to the Pew Research Center.
Arce said transportation to parks is often a barrier for the community. The purpose of Latino Conservation Week is to make sure people who typically aren't represented on public lands have a chance to explore them.
"We break down those barriers to having them be able to actively enjoy their public lands,” she said.
For more on Latino Conservation Week, visit latinoconservationweek.com.