To kick things off we’re featuring two incredible organizations that are leading conservation work nationwide and specifically in the California Desert: Hispanic Access Foundation and Council of Mexican Federations in North America (COFEM).
First up, we sat down with Shanna Edberg, Director of Conservation Programs, and Christine Tamara, Partnership Engagement Manager, with Hispanic Access Foundation to ask them about what’s in store this year during Latino Conservation Week, the importance of engaging Latino communities in conservation work, and how this grows into civic action for our public lands.
Shanna Edberg, Hispanic Access Foundation Director of Conservation Programs enjoys California Desert public lands.
Christine Tamara, Hispanic Access Foundation Partnership Engagement Manager (pictured left) at a 2018 Latino Conservation Week event in Joshua Tree National Park.
Here’s an excerpt from the conversation and stay tuned for our conversation with COFEM next week.
Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)’s Interview with Christine and Shanna, Hispanic Access Foundation
CLF: Tell us more about Latino Conservation Week.
Christine: Latino Conservation Week was created to support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources. Community, non-profit, faith-based, and government organizations and agencies hold events throughout the country -- from hiking and camping, to community roundtables and film screenings -- to promote conservation efforts in their communities, and provide an opportunity for Latinos to show their support for permanently protecting America’s land, water, and air.
Shanna: Although nature is deeply connected to Latino culture and history, the Latino community has not been traditionally recognized for its appreciation and love of the outdoors. Latinos also face barriers of access to public spaces. Latino Conservation Week aims to change that by breaking down those barriers and celebrating Latino engagement and stewardship in outdoor recreation and conservation activities.
Hispanic Access Foundation began Latino Conservation Week in 2014 with just nine events. Last year, more than 160 events were held across the US. These events show that the community is passionate about enjoying and protecting nature and clean air, water, and land. We also hope that these events inspire the next generation of environmental stewards and advocates, and encourage decision-makers to reach out and listen to their voices.
CLF: We understand that this is the 7th year of Latino Conservation Week and that it's grown every year. But this year is very different - how have the activities evolved this year?
Christine: We definitely have had to think creatively and offer a new variety of events and opportunities that can be joined virtually. For example, this year we’re hosting virtual nature walks, virtual hikes, planting kits, and online roundtable discussions tailored for adults and youth. We’re also hosting a screening and discussion about our Land, Water, and Conservation film on Zoom to kick-off the week. The film is also available on hispanicaccess.org.
Shanna: Pivoting our events this year to be virtual, at home, or socially distanced has been a challenge, but our community rose to it! I’m so proud to see the care that everyone has taken in ensuring that we protect people’s health, while still finding cool ways to engage in conservation and outdoor recreation.
We’ll have virtual concerts, art exhibitions, photo contests, scavenger hunts, storytelling, and even soap making. Several events include care packages that are mailed to you and contain activities you can do at home and share online. And a few activities encourage participants to do what they can at home or in their neighborhood - a local street cleanup, for example. Now more than ever, it’s important for us to recognize that nature is all around us, and there’s so much we can do to protect and celebrate it, even when we’re at home, even if we’re in the middle of a city.
CLF: How does Latino Conservation Week contribute to protecting places that we care about, like public lands in the California Desert?
Christine: Latino Conservation Week celebrates public lands and gives the Latino community opportunities to experience and learn about them. For many, this is their first opportunity to spend time on public lands. We’ve found that when the community becomes educated about public lands, they’re willing to use their voice to protect them. This might include, for example, advocating for legislation like the Great American Outdoors Act.
Shanna: For a lot of people, particularly those who may not have access to it, nature and conservation are abstract concepts. But when you can go out to a national park, for example, and really experience what it has to offer, then you might feel more invested in how it’s managed and the threats it faces. With Latino Conservation Week, we're able to provide the platform and opportunities for many Latinos to visit public lands and waters for the first time in their lives. These places are public, they belong to all of us, but they’re not necessarily protected or maintained as they should be - nor are all communities able to access and enjoy them as they should. So we’re hoping to make that connection between accessing, enjoying and loving these spaces, and feeling motivated to advocate for their protection.
CLF: How can people get involved in Latino Conservation Week and support conservation efforts beyond the events?
Christine: People can learn about all our wonderful events here: Latinoconservationweek.com. More information about future conservation opportunities on Hispanic Access Foundation’s website: Hispanicaccess.org
Shanna: Feel free to email [email protected] to learn more or ask any questions. We’d love to have more organizations and individuals organizing their own Latino Conservation Week events, even if it’s for next year. If you want to help us advocate for conservation and climate action during the year, email me at [email protected].