Guest Blog: Making Sure the Next 100 Years of Conservation Is Reflective of ALL Americans

By Maite Arce, President and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF)

Only a few weeks ago we all celebrated the Centennial anniversary of the National Park Service and to celebrate the occasion, Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell held a town hall discussion about diversity at the César E. Chávez National Monument in California.

There was and still is plenty to celebrate. Over the last 100 years, the national parks and our other protected public lands—including national forests, national wildlife refuges and national conservation lands—have taken the lead in preserving many of America’s natural treasures and landscapes. From the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone to the Great Smokey Mountains, Rocky Mountains and Everglades, our national parks symbolize the magnificence and greatness of America. By protecting our public lands and even more as national monuments, lakeshores and national recreation areas, we’re making sure that these treasured sites are here for future generations to enjoy.

By 2020, half of youth in America will be of color. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2043, a majority of our country’s residents will be people of color. These shifting demographics emphasize the importance of making sure the next 100 years of conservation is reflective of ALL Americans. We need to tell inclusive stories that recognize the diverse makeup of America and honor the contributions and leadership of people of color.

As honored as I was to serve as a speaker at this monumental event, it reminds me that we still have much to do in making sure we have a system of public lands that truly reflects the diversity of our nation – whether that’s for Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans or African Americans. Without the engagement and support of all Americans, we are at risk of losing the historic, cultural, natural, spiritual, economic and recreational resources that our public lands currently provide our families and communities. Climate change, development threats such as those HAF recently profiled in a Colorado white paper, and political pressures in the U.S. Congress and statehouses across the West to seize and sell off public lands require many more of us to stand up for our collective heritage. If we don’t, we stand to lose what we have – never mind losing opportunities to conserve new areas such as Castner Range, The Expansión of the Rio Grande del Norte and the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monuments for our children and grandchildren.

During this National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time when people across our country recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States, we have an opportunity.  An opportunity to celebrate our shared heritage and American culture by building on the legacy the President has built over the past eight years, ensuring our shared values, culture and outdoor spaces are intact for our children.

The Hispanic Access Foundation is committed to working with diverse leaders from civil rights, environmental justice, conservation and community organizations to continue to emphasize the need to establish an inclusive system of national parks and public lands that reflects, honors and engages all Americans. Stand with us, our partners and Sign our petition at change.org.

Posted by Dave Welz in Inclusion and Diversity
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