Engaging and Elevating Latino Voices in Conservation

I'm excited to share some of the recent progress HECHO has made in engaging and elevating Latino voices in the debate over conservation, in which we have traditionally been overlooked. It's becoming clearer that the Latino community is ready to take its seat at the table with policy makers and industry to ensure the health of our community and the best use of our public lands. This sentiment has reverberated in numerous news outlets including in the Sante Fe New Mexican's editorial board, which highlighted our most recent poll and the growing role that the Latino community is playing in balancing development and conservation. They highlighted that the long held belief that minorities aren’t as worried about the forests and wildlands, especially when there are jobs involved, could be wrong.

I have been encouraged to work with such Latino conservationists first-hand and inspired by their commitment to their families and the environment. Just last week, I joined Hispanic Access Foundation to celebrate their “Four Stops, One Destination” tour dedicated to raising awareness in the Latino community about access to public lands. You can read my full blog post at the link below, and I was especially moved by a young lady, Jessica Loya, a UC Santa Cruz student by way of East LA, who posed a question early in the day: “How do we get our communities to connect with the outdoors if they are from the city, surrounded by concrete?” That became the beginning of a conversation whose threads were picked up throughout the day, even as we were standing high upon the beautiful dunes. Lots of ideas were thrown around, and I am confident that she can be a catalyst to spark interest in caring for the outdoors, even if it has to start at a local park, or the botanical garden just blocks from her Grandmother’s house.

It’s because of our children and commitment to the environment that we must support the funding of the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which has been instrumental in the programs and activities that allow us to stay strong in this conservation. Below is a more detailed account of these activities and what to expect next. We thank you for your support and look forward to our continued work together.

Best Regards,

Rod Torrez, Director

HECHO elevating and engaging Latino Conservationists

HECHO’s recent poll demystifies the Latin Conservationist.Not only do Hispanics care about the land, the poll shows that they also expect the government to protect public lands. As a group, Hispanics don’t seem likely to look the other way, for example, while politicians try to sell out public land protection. Hispanics polled want to balance conservation efforts with oil and gas development, and they believe extractive industries must be responsible for what they do. This isn’t a group that cares only about jobs and economic impact. The land matters, as it always has. The poll, conducted in Colorado and New Mexico for HECHO by political opinion research firm Latino Decisions, found that some 93 percent of respondents expect the government to protect public lands. The connection to the land and its well-being crossed party affiliation, gender and age groups. What this means is that politicians can’t slice up the environmental/minority vote so neatly. The wishes of Hispanic voters will have to be considered, especially when discussing preservation and access to public lands. Jobs won’t always be enough to sway support for drilling — it’s easier now to understand why Mora County officials still preferred to keep oil exploration out of their backyard with their first-in-the-nation fracking ban.” [Santa Fe New Mexican Editorial Opinion: Our View: For Hispanics voters, preservation matters, July 20, 2014]

HECHO celebrates the end of the Hispanic Access Foundation “Four Stops, One Destination” tour of National Parks in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.“They had been connecting with people along their tour and visiting places that helped them connect the dots about the impacts of oil and gas development on public lands, and about the need for Latinos to be engaged in efforts to ensure that the places we love, even if we love them from afar, are protected for future generations and for the health of our planet.” [HECHO Blog:Four Stops, One Destination: Young Latinos Supporting Conservation, July 19, 2014]

Latinos believe in better balancing development and conservation and will likely support full funding of the Land and Water Conservation fund. “Last month, apoll of Latinos, conducted by HECHO with Latino Decisions in Colorado and New Mexico indicated that a 93% of respondents believe that the government should protect public lands for recreation and the overall well-being of the environment. Moreover, the use of royalties to pay for conservation projects is highly supported across party lines. Losing the fund would be a huge setback. Many successful parks and conservation projects rely heavily on LWCF dollars. In turn, these projects bring long-lasting benefits to communities, including more places to camp, fish, hunt and hike, as well as jobs in the recreation economy. According to the Department of Interior, recent analysis of the Land and Water Conservation Fund found that every $1 invested in land acquisition generated a $4 return on the investment for communities.” [HECHO Blog:Land & Water Conservation Fund Deserves Full, Continued Funding, July 10, 2014]

HECHO’s upcoming events:

Max Trujillo, Deputy Director of HECHO will join Rob Larranaga, manager of the Las Vegas Wildlife Refuge and Garrett VeneKlasen of New Mexico Wildlife Federation on a nature trail hike and for brief presentations on the importance of conservation and protecting public lands. Taking families to the outdoors strengthens not only our community but our identity and commitment to the lands we’ve protected for generations. These educational outings will take place August 2 from 9am-12pm and mark the beginning of other events we hope to launch in partnership with USFWS. Stay tuned and enjoy the outdoors!