What we're up to -- and a few frightening facts...

Dear Friends, I hope you'll enjoy an incredible Halloween weekend exploring the outdoors with friends and family. This time of the year reminds me of growing up in Denver when my dad would load up the  car  and we'd go hunting in the rockies. That was entertainment and enjoyment for us, and those experiences instilled value in us that we continue to promote in protecting our public lands today.

In case you missed it last week, I joined a Google Hangout panel of Latino experts on conservation issues to highlight our community’s dedication to making sure elected officials and regulators hear our concerns. In fact recent polls released by Latino Decisions and NCLR in states that are receiving plenty of attention ahead of November’s high-stakes elections showed that Latinos vote in states like Colorado (48%) and North Carolina (43%) mainly because they want to make their voices heard.

Over the last couple of years we have seen the impact that the Latino community’s advocacy can have, resulting in the President's designation of three National Monuments, including the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks National Monument, Río Grande del Norte National Monument, and just last month, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. These monuments are surrounded by robust Latino communities who have used and preserved public lands for many years, even centuries. However, the impact of oil and gas development on some of these lands could potentially change these landscapes such that they can no longer be used for hunting and fishing by our communities.

A common theme throughout our Google Hangout panel was that Latinos are cultural conservationists, meaning it’s just part of our way of life. Now we are also coming to together as advocates to ensure that local and national leaders not only understand that, but take actions that help us preserve our heritage.

As we’ve discussed before, this isn’t only about iconic landscapes and national monuments. Public lands also include smaller areas, close to where Latinos live, and that in recent years we’ve seen affected by oil and gas development that not only infringes on hunting and fishing by our communities, but in some cases restricts access altogether.

Frightening Conservation Facts

Ever had the unsettling feeling someone was nearby, but when you look around, you don’t see anyone? It’s the stuff that campfire stories are made of, the things we tell our kids to keep them close at night – like La LLorona, weeping by the creek, waiting for wayward children.

Whether or not you believe in scary, unseen things, sometimes those things are undeniably present. NASA has just made one harmful, invisible thing shockingly visible. It's larger than the Grand Canyon, and if you’re in the Southwest, it might be hovering over you right now.

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A 2500 square mile cloud of methane was detected in 2009 over the Four Corners region, but that data was confirmed only a few weeks ago, and scientists believe it is caused by natural gas development in the San Juan Basin. The data does not include additional gas releases from oil and gas drilling that has occurred since then. Other, smaller methane "hotspots" exist other heavily developed areas in Colorado and North Dakota.

And did you know?

90% of the available land in the San Juan Basin has been leased. The other 10% is mostly in a buffer zone around Chaco Canyon, and that is presently being reviewed for potential development.

A recent NYT op-ed by Senator Heinrich discusses the scary prospect that our lands might be sold off to the highest bidder. Proponents argue that states will better manage these lands but don't mention the exorbitant costs of doing so which could bankrupt state governments. If you think that's scary, you're right..

That’s why our community has to come together and make sure our regulators and industry leaders consider us partners in determining how our public lands are being used.

Best, Rod Torrez, Director

In Case You Missed It: Watch on YouTube: New Latino Advocacy Making a Difference on Conservation and Climate Change