HECHO’s Annual Advisory Board Retreat

HECHO is grateful to have such an incredible advisory board, consisting of Hispanic/Latino elected officials and community leaders in the states that we focus on, including New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.  We are honored to have San Miguel County Commissioner Rock Ulibarri as our Board Chair, whose family has lived in Las Vegas, New Mexico for generations, and who exemplifies HECHO’s commitment to preserving cultural traditions on public lands. Other board members include: Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck from Utah; Representative Mark Cardenas from Arizona; Yuma County Board Supervisor Lenore Loroña Stuart from Arizona; Nevada Senator Mo Denis; Nevada outdoor enthusiast and youth educator Al Martinez; and New Mexico public lands expert and advocate, Kent Salazar. (Please see the full list of bios for HECHO’s advisory board members here.)

Last month we came together in Santa Fe for our annual board retreat to reflect on HECHO’s first five years, and to brainstorm ways to maximize our impact for the next five years and beyond.

We recommitted ourselves to HECHO’s mission:

To amplify Hispanic/Latino voices and promote Hispanic/Latino outdoor heritage within American landscapes through focused advocacy, communication, and shaping leaders’ views of public land conservation.  

 We intend to accomplish this by:

·       Empowering and supporting Hispanic/Latino leaders to weigh in on policies that increase access to public lands.

·       Protecting our public lands and heritage in order to maintain our connection to the lands.

·       Being the “go to” organization for Hispanic/Latino elected officials and community members who want to learn more about, and get more involved in, public land conservation.  

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During the retreat we constructed a play model of the organization (see photos) that answered the following questions:  1) What does HECHO do? 2) Who are we doing it for? 3) How do we measure success?  4) How do we know we’re doing our job well?  Below is how we answered these important questions:

HECHO is an organization that amplifies Hispanic voices on public lands policy and empowers Hispanic/Latino leaders to have a seat the table when it comes to conserving public lands for future generations. Lately one of our primary focuses has been speaking out to preserve our country’s precious national monuments, which represent the diverse range of stories and history that shape our nation. We have been strongly encouraging our constituents to weigh in during public comment periods, and helping community leaders and elected officials write and publish op-eds on this issue. We are particularly focused on the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada; and Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah. Woven into these lands is Hispanic heritage dating back to the 1700’s that should not be lost forever.

We have also been dedicated to the BLM’s Natural Gas Waste Prevention Rule, which HECHO was instrumental in helping to secure last year. This Rule would prevent more than $330 million worth of natural gas from being wasted on public and tribal lands from venting, flaring, and leaking natural gas into the air. This is money that could help improve our schools, roads and other infrastructure. Unfortunately, the current Administration is threatening to rescind this law, but HECHO is hard at work helping to write and place op-eds, running radio ads, and amplifying Latino voices on this topic, making sure that our perspective is heard. 

One of the ongoing ways that we amplify Hispanic voices is to capture people’s personal stories of familial and cultural connections to the land. People like Martin Anaya who shared his story about bow hunting  and mountain biking in the forest; and how his love for the land motivated him to work day-and-night to restore the forests in Coconino County after the devastating Schultz Fire and subsequent floods. Or Rose Ann Atherton’s favorite wild game chili recipe that she makes after hunting trips with her husband and son.  These stories of camping, fishing, hunting, or collecting piñon capture our ancestral connections to the land, and why this work is important to our community.  

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As we built a model of our organization during the retreat and answered these questions, we realized that HECHO means different thing to different people. But we all agreed that amplifying Hispanic voices on public lands policy is vital.  We need to weigh in and participate, and create opportunities to do so. We are committed to increasing the capacity of local Hispanic leaders to speak out on our behalf, and will continue to engage regularly with land management agencies, offices, and processes.

We ended the retreat with renewed enthusiasm for HECHO and the value of our work. Stewardship of natural resources by Hispanics is a part of our culture and a way of life that has been passed down for generations through our enduring outdoor traditions. Embedded in our cultural heritage is awareness of, and concern for, the sustainability of the land. While Hispanics are not new to conservation, our viewpoints and perspectives on policies related to natural resources management have been missing from national, state, and local decision-making. There is tremendous value to be added to these debates by diverse backgrounds, and we are advocating not only to be present in the spaces where these debates take place, but also to have our viewpoints represented in the decisions that are made.

The HECHO team is looking forward to many more years of being a thought leader in the conservation community and changing how Hispanics are able to influence public policy. We will continue to demonstrate that the Hispanic population can be galvanized to conserve public lands; and elevating our voices about why conservation is central to Hispanic values, grounded in our traditions, and vital for future generations.