To that end, HAF will join forces Saturday with the West Coast-based Por La Creación (Faith-based Alliance) to lead an educational nature hike at Big Morongo Canyon. Benitez says the purpose of the activity is bring local Latino pastors and youth group leaders together in the great outdoors to explore ways to preserve the California desert and take better care of God’s creation.
“This is the first time our group will be holding a hike in the Victorville area and six pastors and small group of youth leaders will be participating,” Benitez said. “The outing will be a great time to address environmental protection issues, as well as inspire those in attendance to become good stewards of God’s planet.”
Among the pastors participating in Saturday’s hike are Javier Moreno (Por La Creación/Faith-based Alliance member), Absalon Duran (Iglesia Monte de Sion), Raul Velasquez (Iglesia Nuevos Comienzos), Francisco Carias (Primera Asamblea), Hector Manzo (Centro Cristiano de Fe radio station) and Juan Soto, who is currently unaffiliated with a church.
During the event, Benitez said the leaders will play educational games focused on protecting California’s desert and there also will be plenty of time for questions and brainstorming. They also will discuss Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act and how it could protect the region’s quality of life and contribute to the local economy.
Proponents say the act would make a significant impact on Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and the Mojave National Preserve by protecting the existing access roads to hunting, camping, off-road and tourist areas.
“The idea for these hikes originated from the mounting concern that the cultural heritage, landscapes and resources of the California desert face irreversible damage from ongoing threats,” said Benitez.
“Exporting groundwater from desert aquifers, air pollution, rapid community development and encroachments from renewable energy developments are just a few of them that need to be addressed. We’ve done several hikes in the Coachella Valley and it’s been amazing to see all of the good ideas that have come out of them.”
Benitez said she is confident Saturday’s hike at Big Morongo Canyon also will spark many ideas for ways in which its participants can get involved with environmental protection activism. She said she expects the leaders' efforts will include writing Op-Ed pieces and letters to the editor, delivering sermons and spreading the word among the Latino community through grass roots efforts.
“Our organization doesn’t have a whole lot of resources, but we want to make the biggest impact we can,” said Benitez. “The future of our planet depends on all of our collective efforts.”
HAF is a nationwide 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose mission is to build bridges that connect Latino communities with information and services they need for a better life. Over its history, the group has assisted more than 100,000 individuals in their search for support and affordable services in the communities where they live.
Por la Creación (Faith-based Alliance) was founded with the intention of inspiring Hispanic religious leaders to actively engage in supporting the protection of our country’s natural resources.
For more information visit Por La Creación at http://porlacreacion.org/index.php/about.