Congress Steps Up to Engage Latinos in Conservation

In July, a Resolution supporting Latinx engagement in the great outdoors and conservation was introduced  to the U.S. Senate. The Resolution is supported by Democrats and Republicans across the nation as well as in the House of Representatives. It affirms the role Latinos have to play in conservation efforts, supports the meaningful engagement of Latinos in conservation, and encourages Latino communities to participate in various activities that foster a love of the outdoors and drive conservation awareness. The implications of this simple resolution are bright for U.S. public lands and over 56.6 million Latinx and Hispanic U.S. residents.  It means that our precious redrock country will have more voices to speak for its protection.

Efforts to protect public lands in Utah and our nation’s most delicate and threatened ecosystems will only succeed as far as the number of people willing to speak up for them. In order to speak for our public lands, Latinx communities must get to know the places we are speaking for. Places like the San Rafael Swell, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the numerous canyons, rivers, and cultural sites throughout southern Utah are the inheritance of all American people. Yet, Hispanic and Latinx populations are underrepresented in these areas. For example, the Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service reported that 14 percent of forest visitors identified as Hispanic—a harrowing number considering that populations in Arizona and New Mexico are 48 percent and 31 percent Hispanic respectively. The most recent National Park Service study on visitation likewise confirmed that communities of color are underrepresented in public lands—22 percent of visitors are minorities, though they make up 37 percent of the population.

Organizations are working nationally to remedy this discrepancy while equipping Latinx and Hispanic communities with the tools to stand up for public land conservation. Twenty-one organizations undersigned in a letter urging Congress to support the resolution are spearheading Latinx community engagement in conservation by helping eliminate barriers to public lands through education, democratic participation, service, recreation, and amplifying Latinx voices for conservation.

SUWA has joined the movement with the addition of our new Latinx Community Organizer (yours truly). Our goals fall right in line with this resolution and the guiding principles of the Next 100 Coalition: to ensure that our public lands reflect the faces of our country, celebrate all cultures, and actively engage all racial and ethnic communities in shaping the future of our public lands. We will do this by proactively creating opportunities for local Latinx and Hispanic communities to speak out in the media, learn about the issues, serve our unprotected wildlands, and participate in grassroots activism.

If you or your group are passionate about wild Utah and want to learn more or get engaged, contact olivia@suwa.org.