Max Trujillo and I have spent time in DC this month, announcing our poll, knocking on doors and spreading the word that Latinos support conservation.
Here's an update on the progress we’re making to strike a better balance between oil and gas development and conservation. As you know, two weeks ago HECHO announced the results of a poll conducted in Colorado and New Mexico that found that a staggering 93% of Latinos in those two states believe that the government should protect public lands for recreation and 95% want to be consulted by the governmentin the leasing of our public lands.
The strong numbers don't surprise most of us who know that our community has loved the West for generations. But the positive reaction we’ve gotten, and the attention this important issue has received has been humbling and invigorating to all of us who see every single day how the oil and gas boom is affecting the southwest.
The sentiment that reverberated throughout our conversations in Washington, DC and in the media is that there is now an acknowledgement about the very real concern we have as Latinos over the loss of access to these lands. HECHO is being recognized as a new and important voice helping bring Latino voices to policy makers. Whether it was news outlets like Univision in Denver highlighting our effort to hold oil and gas industry accountable, or a powerful blog post penned by the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashewelcoming HECHO to this debate, or news outlets like the Arizona Republic picking up the wire stories on the poll, we launched a conversation that is being noticed, and that’s going beyond the typical policy debate. They’re highlighting that for us this is personal. As HECHO Board Member and State Representative Mark Cardenas notes, this is about his niece and nephew, and about protecting our lands for our children and grandchildren the way our ancestors protected them for us.
During my time in DC, it was inspiring to meet with and hear from other conservationists during Great Outdoors America Week, sponsored by The Wilderness Society. I was even invited to present the poll’s findings to the National Parks Conservation Association, because of the interest our work is generating, and we had a meaningful conversation about making stronger connections with Latino communities.
Now we’re taking the next step. We’re going out to our friends and those on the ground to make sure we help them tell their story. We want them to share this blog with friends, but we also want them to share what the outdoors mean to them. We’re going out to the community and asking them to share their biggest catch, their favorite hunting dog, or their best campsite on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using the hashtag #Latinos4Conservation. It’s time we stand united and make sure policymakers and the oil and gas industry do the right thing and start to treat us as partners. Stay tuned to see what we get back.
Below are just some of the recent media highlights that showcase our recent poll, and how much interest we’re generating on this important issue.
Univision KCEC News: HECHO, a new voice calling for greater balance between development and conservation. More than 40% of Latinos are worried that future generations are will not enjoy the public lands that we use today. “We can strike a balance between development and conservation. It doesn’t have to be one or the other” says Rod Torrez, Director of HECHO. [Denver—Univision KCEC News, Hispanos a favor de proteger y preservar el medio ambiente, June 19, 2014]
Daniel Ashe, Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service praises HECHO’s work, and welcomes Latino voices. “For all of these reasons, the men and women of HECHO understand that we all have a stake in conservation. They are leading efforts to raise awareness of Latino sportsmen/women and outdoor enthusiasts about conservation issues. As HECHO notes, “To enjoy and to continue centuries-old cultural traditions, we depend upon healthy watersheds, clean air, robust wildlife habitats and access to open spaces.” Like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many others in the conservation community, HECHO seeks to balance development with conservation… We need to find new ways to engage this growing constituency – and to help Latino families connect with nature. We need to show Latino Americans how our work benefits them – and the role they can play in helping to conserve fish and wildlife for their children and grandchildren.” [FWS, Latinos Help Make Conservation Happen, June 19, 2014]
Rep. Mark Cardenas remarks, “We are all conservationists, and we didn’t even know it.” “According to a recent poll conducted by HECHO, 93 percent of respondents believe the government should protect public lands for recreation. Those feelings could translate into voting habits and a deeper understanding of a major voting demographic. The poll also found that a slight majority of Latinos would support maintaining the environmental integrity of the land. The poll found 77 percent of Latinos would support a plan requiring oil companies to pay royalties on natural gas they burn during the extraction process. ‘We are all conservationists, and we didn’t even know it,” Arizona state Rep. Mark Cardenas D-Phoenix, said.”’ [Scripps-Howard News, Poll: Latinos overwhelmingly support conservation policies, June 11, 2014]
Elevating the Latino conservation voice at the decision-making table. “We’re here to bring a voice to Latinos in conservation and to have a place at the table when it comes to decision-making on public lands,” said HECHO Director Rod Torrez. The poll shows that a majority of Latinos in those states believe the government should protect public lands and they want to be consulted on land-policy issues. That is largely due to the “deep and enduring ties” many Hispanic families have to those states, said Gabriel Sanchez, Latino Decisions’ director of research. More than 80 percent of the respondents said they feel a strong sense of familial connection to the land in New Mexico or Colorado. ‘It’s not just a policy preference issue for Hispanics in these two states,’ Sanchez said. ‘It’s very personal because their families are connected to this land.”’ [Cronkite News, Poll: Hispanics overwhelmingly support conservation, tourism, June 11, 2014]
Other major publications covering Poll highlights, include:
Arizona Republic, “Majority of Latinos support conservation, survey says,”
Arizona Capitol Times, "Poll: Hispanics overwhelmingly support conservation and tourism”
Tucson Sentinel, “Poll: Hispanics overwhelmingly support conservation and tourism”
Noticias Bereavision TV, KSDY 50.3, San Diego, Friday, June 13 newscast
Watch HECHO’s new video highlighting why this issue matters to the Latino community: