“Latino Conservation Week is a week that focuses on the environment and the nationwide Latino community,” said Mason Osgood, community outreach coordinator at SMA. “The outdoors are being used by an increasingly diverse user group, including in Telluride. Sheep Mountain Alliance finds it important to highlight, and empower diverse voices and experiences in the outdoors. This is especially important in Telluride with our robust Latinx community, and such great access to various outdoor activities.”
The week’s offerings will include online access to comment writing materials and handouts through SMA’s website and Facebook page, a bilingual nature scavenger hunt for children available through the Wilkinson Public Library’s weekly activity bags, available Monday, and a family-friendly hike up Bear Creek next Sunday.
“The East Bear Creek Hike on July 26 will have bilingual trail maps, a scavenger hunt, and trail information,” Osgood explained. “Several Sheep Mountain and local volunteers will be along the trail — socially distanced — to provide information regarding local flora and fauna, some of the environmental challenges facing Bear Creek, and some local history behind Bear Creek. We'll also have SMA prizes and swag for those participating in the scavenger hunt,” he said, adding that all information will be available in both English and Spanish.
And while comment writing may feel dry, bureaucratic, or even intimidating, Osgood explained that communicating with public officials who make decisions about land use, conservation and recreation is key to making sure the priorities and values of a diverse community are heard and incorporated.
“Comment writing on decisions made through the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management is the best way to make your voice heard and speak up for wildlife, public lands, and protection of our wild places here in Southwest Colorado,” he said. “Federal agencies depend on input from groups like SMA, and advocates for the outdoors. By comment writing, you are making your voice heard and are able to impact the decision making process for our wonderful backyard.”
According to the Hispanic Access Foundation, which started the annual weeklong event in 2014, “Latino Conservation Week was created to support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources.”
Although the United States population is approximately 38 percent minority groups, numbers of visitors to national parks, for example, reflected only 22 percent minority visitors out of nearly 293 million visitors in 2014, according to advocacy group Diversify Outdoors.
“The truth is, too, that many, many members of the local Latinx community already use the outdoors in a variety of ways,” said Lexi Tuddenham, SMA executive director. “From hiking, to stand up paddle boarding, to playing soccer, walking, running, and picnicking outside, our local Latinx community appreciates and partakes in the outdoors — we just want to help facilitate and make those experiences accessible for more folks.”
While minority groups have often been underrepresented in the outdoor communities of recreation, media and conservation, Latino Conservation Week aims to change that, and to highlight and celebrate the role that the Latinx community has played and continues to play in outdoor spaces.
“We need to ensure that people see other people who look like them leading and participating in both the world of outdoor recreation and in conservation,” said Tuddenham. “This means diversifying representation in the membership, boards, and leadership of our organizations. Ensuring that people feel comfortable and accepted in the spaces we are creating; making sure that signs and messaging are bilingual; and highlighting the fact that public lands are a resource for wellness, recreation, learning and joy for everyone.
“The demographics of this country are rapidly changing, and if we want to have a relevant conservation movement in the future, we need to reckon with the extremely problematic history of conservation, recognize the existential threats that many people in our country are facing right now, and figure out how solutions that weave together justice, equity, and environment can help move us forward.”
By Bria Light, Staff Reporter