WILDERNESS SOCIETY: National Park Tour Engages Young Latinos with Conservation

The Wilderness Society helped kick off the "Four Stops One Destination" national park tour in Mile High fashion.

Several of America’s famed national parks will be the destinations for a group of college students who will be touring the west over next week, learning about the many threats posed by oil and gas development.

The “Four Stops, One Destination,” tour, led by partner group the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), kicked off in our Denver office July 11 after the seven Latino students arrived from colleges around the country.

Helping the students understand the threats posed to national parks by oil and gas development is key to the future of protecting public lands. Our office was their last stop before their first official tour destination—Rocky Mountain National Park.

This group of students will visit six national parks in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico during their 1,400 mile trip—adding two additional stops from the original “Four Stops” indicated in the tour name. (see the full itinerary below).

Photo: Adrian Hernandez (right) and Robert Espinoza (left) discuss the impacts of oil and gas development at The Wilderness Society office before setting out on their trip.

Getting Latino students out to our parks can make a difference

The goal is simple—to engage Latinos with our national parks while highlighting the need to protect these natural wonders from oil and gas development. Participants will be encouraged take an active role in stewarding public lands.

“The engagement of Latinos, and especially Latino youth, is critical to the long-term protection and preservation of these locations for future generations,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of HAF.

“Latinos are extremely passionate about their local parks, but we need to translate that enthusiasm to our national park system.” - Maite Arce, CEO of the Hispanic Access Fund.

Nationally, only nine percent of the country’s approximately 54 million Latinos visit our national parks each year, according to estimates from the American Latino Heritage Fund. As the Latino population grows, it’s important raise awareness of these national treasures and the threats that face them.

Spreading the word about oil and gas threats to national parks

Each park on the itinerary faces a unique set of challenges. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is actively pursuing or proposing the leasing of lands just outside many these parks for the development of oil and gas. In Dinosaur National Monument, for example, there is a long history of controversy surrounding oil and gas leasing on lands that border the monument. In Arches, the BLM originally proposed several nearby leases in 2008.

Planning is still underway for many of these projects, so it’s important to raise awareness before decisions are made. Master Leasing Plans could help protect communities and allow for responsible oil and gas development in appropriate places—striking a balance between conservation and energy development.

“We’re looking to put conservation on equal ground with oil and gas drilling,” Arce added. “If we don’t have a balanced approach to energy development, future generations will not be able to enjoy the beauty of these parks as they stand today.”

The students will continue to spread the message back to their communities even after their adventure is over. Many of the students plan to participate in their community as part of the inaugural Latino Conservation Action Week (July 26–Aug. 2). Several of them also plan to speak about their experiences to a vast network of Latino churches, and there are even plans to have these youth do a briefing for congress.

The group will be actively documenting their experience throughout the trip, follow their journey at @hispanicaccess or #4Stops1destination.

- See more at: http://wilderness.org/blog/national-park-tour-engages-young-latinos-cons...

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