Latino Conservation Alliance: Congress Must Advance Bill to Recruit Underserved Communities for Environmental Conservation Programs

WASHINGTON – The Latino Conservation Alliance—a group of five national Latino organizations dedicated to representing a diverse array of Latino communities to conserve our natural heritage for future generations—released the following statement in support of the Public Lands Service Corps Act. The bill, introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), would expand the pool of Public Lands Corps participants to include many veterans, encourages recruitment among underserved communities, makes it easier for Corps members to finish a degree before starting a full-time conservation career, and creates new programs to coordinate Corps activities at multiple federal agencies.

Yesterday, the bill was offered as an amendment to the National Park Service Centennial Act. At the request of House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, the amendment was withdrawn. Chairman Bishop offered to work with Ranking Member Grijalva (R- Utah) to move the bill forward via regular order.  

“LCA believes strongly that diverse youth need exposure to our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, historic sites, and other public lands.  The Public Land Corps and the Youth Conservation Corps provide young people with opportunities to care for these lands and develop into lifelong stewards of our public lands. 

“This bill would have modernized the Public Lands Corps by attracting new participants, especially from underrepresented populations, including DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] youth – young people who possess an employment authorization document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services under the requirements of the Department of Homeland Security policy.

“Bill author Rep. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), shared the story of Adrian Hernandez, one of seven college students who participated in Hispanic Access Foundation’s 4 Stops, 1 Destination tour to help foster a love of national parks among young Latinos while introducing them to the threats facing these places. Hernandez is a DACA recipient who came to the United States from Mexico at a young age. Today, he is studying civil engineering with an emphasis on water resource and environmental engineering at Santa Ana Community College. Yet, he will remain ineligible for the Youth Conservation Corps.

“By providing youth employment in the conservation and maintenance of public lands, this bill would have expanded stewardship of the nation’s natural, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational and scenic resources, while training a new generation of public land managers and enthusiasts.”

Founded in December 2014, the Latino Conservation Alliance members include GreenLatinos, Hispanic Access Foundation, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO), Hispanic Federation, and Latino Outdoors.