This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month comes during an historic time for the Latino community and for the future of public lands in our country. This is a time when decisions that will affect the next century of public lands conservation, restoration and management, are taking place within federal government that manage public lands such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. The voices, perspectives, and input of the Hispanic community needs to play an integral role in these decisions.
Conversations, forums, and formal consultations are helping shape the next 100 years of our public lands. Let’s make sure that we encourage our communities to be part of these discussions and ensure that our heritage, inter-generational wisdom, values and practices are incorporated into the vision and implementation of management plans of these lands. Our communities need to feel welcomed in parks, forests, natural reserves and other public green spaces but we also need to make sure that our community is represented when decisions are being made. It’s not enough to complain or point out the lack of diversity on public lands, we need to act and be part of the solution.
Over the next few months, there are numerous venues for us to elevate our voices and be heard:
- At the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, the U.S. Forest Service will participate in the Americas Latino Eco Festival to be held in Denver October 13-16. The Forest Service is coming to this event as part of a renewed effort to reach out to Latino community leaders and to engage in conversations on how to appropriately involve our community in U.S. Forest Service strategic planning for the next 100 years.
Let’s make sure that during this opportunity, they listen to constructive feedback and insights that will help close the underrepresentation of our community in the outreach, decision-making process and even career opportunities related to public lands.
- On September 22, we will celebrate the one-year anniversary of a landmark conservation plan that conserves 67 million acres across 11 western states. This effort—driven by the best science and local knowledge-- was the result of collaboration between local, state, and federal governments, and a wide range of stakeholders.
Let’s support collaborative stakeholder models like the one used to accomplish this historic conservation achievement by making sure we fight back attacks to undermine inclusion in conservation decision-making.
- National Public Lands Day will take place on September 24, during Hispanic Heritage Month. On this day, we celebrate the public’s joint ownership of these lands through recreational and volunteer events at federal and state lands across the country.
Let’s use this opportunity to be part of the celebrations, volunteer, and even organize events to showcase the important role that public land conservation plays in our community.
- Finally, our country is going through a Presidential campaign that will define the future of our country for generations. Through the power of our vote, we will be able to help elect the candidates aspiring to serve at the White House, Congress, state and local level that are willing to prioritize the protection, conservation, and restoration of our nation’s public lands.
Let’s use that power wisely.
This month, let’s celebrate our shared Hispanic heritage and honor the lessons on conservation passed down to us generation after generation. We raise our voices to be heard so we can preserve our nation’s natural treasures now and forever!