Upcoming Latino Conservation Week Shines Spotlight on Latinos and the Outdoors

The kickoff of the third annual Latino Conservation Week, which will be held July 16 - 24, is quickly approaching. For those unfamiliar with LCW, it's a platform for organizations, business and government agencies to engage Latinos in our nation's parks, public lands and conservation efforts.

Our goal in creating LCW was to shine a spotlight on the involvement of Latinos in the outdoors and this community's concern for preserving our natural resources for future generations.

For years we've talked about the passion Latinos have for the outdoors - for the recreation opportunities and family togetherness it provides. More recently, polling and actual on the ground evidence - see the San Gabriel Mountains, Browns Canyon, Boulder-White Clouds, Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains National Monuments - show that their passion extends beyond simply enjoying these places and to protection and preservation.

Last year, events were held by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Natural Resources, National Wildlife Refuge System, California State Parks, Por la Creacion: Faith-based Alliance, Latino Outdoors, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Sierra Club, COFEM, Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, Healthy Parks Healthy People Bay Area, REI, The Boeing Company, Environment for the Americas, Mujeres de la Tierra, Urban Semillas, Amigos de los Rios, and Los Angeles County of Parks and Recreation. These ranged from overnight camping and hiking opportunities to film screenings about the Colorado River and roundtable discussions on conservation.

So, why do these groups among others look to participate in Latino Conservation Week?

The straightforward answer is population. Currently, Latinos are the largest minority group in America - at more than 50 million, this community makes up approximately 16 percent of the nation's population. And that is only expected to grow. The U.S. Census predicts this number will double by 2050 reaching nearly a third of the entire population.

The more complex answer is that the future economics and the success of conservation efforts could hinge on the Latino community's engagement. As the nation's demographics continue to shift, it's imperative that an organization, agency or business modifies its focus and approach to reaching and engaging that market. This application is true across the board, not just to the outdoors. The big difference, however, is that in a good portion of corporate America this shift is already being addressed.

Additionally, for Latinos the need to protect our natural resources like the public lands of the California desert is not a political issue. No, for them it's a moral obligation. Even for Latinos without ideology rooted in scripture, they embrace the responsibility we have to take care of our surroundings and preserve them for their children and their children's children. This is what makes Latino Conservation Week special.

In its first year, 16 LCW events were held in the western states. Last year, more than 50 events were held spanning from New York City to Los Angeles. Thousands of Latinos took part. This year, we expect that number to continue to grow and even more Latinos connecting with the outdoors in new and innovative ways.

If your organization is interested in joining Latino Conservation Week, it's easy. Once you've planned your event - and we can help with ideas - simply visit LatinoConservationWeek.com and share your event through our online form. The event will be published on the event calendar and we'll help promote it through the Hispanic Access Foundation's network. If you have questions or would like to discuss your event, please contact us at info@hispanicaccess.org.