News Coverage

22 December 2011

Congress Answers Latino Youth's Call for Environmental Change

Category: News Coverage

Our country’s steadfast efforts to protect the environment this year finally paid off last Saturday when Congress granted $322.9 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to protect lands and jobs in 2012. This is a $20 million increase from last year’s budget and reflects the widespread support for the fund. In 2011, Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) worked with Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) and other organizations to push for more funding for LWCF. HAF learned that 95 percent of Latinos supported full funding for LWCF and that 9 in 10 Americans wanted Congress to stop siphoning funds for the program.

“Hispanics are passionate about their public parks and open spaces,” said Maite Arce, HAF’s executive director. “Parks are often the center of family activities, gatherings, and even their careers. As such, their protection ranks high on Hispanics’ priority list.” Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation contribute $1.06 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and support 9.4 million American jobs, which equates to one out of every 15 U.S. jobs, according to the LWCF Coalition. LWCF is an important tool for protecting the nation’s parks, wildlife refuges and recreational areas. It uses a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas leases instead of taxpayers’ money to protect parks and open spaces across the country. The fund is also important because it encourages Americans to get outdoors by protecting federal lands and waters, wildlife habitat, and close-to-home parks, said Frank Hugelmeyer, Outdoor Industry Association’s president & CEO. In July 2011, HAF partnered with ELK to hold a free day of trout fishing and lessons in aquatic ecology and conservation at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver where more than 250 Denver Latinos took part.

HAF collaborated with ELK again in August to hold a round table discussion with 50 Latino youth and their families at the Rocky Mountain National Park. There, the organization discussed ways youth and their families could further engage in enjoying and advocating for parks, wildlife habitat and the outdoors. And in October, representatives from HAF personally delivered letters from Colorado Latinos to the White House asking President Barack Obama to oppose proposed cuts to LWCF in the fall. After a year of hard work, HAF is seeing its efforts come to fruition. But, it will be up to the community to continue to fight for LWCF funding. “Despite this strong show of support in the 2012 budget bill, the Land and Water Conservation Fund continues to be funded well below the $900 million that is deposited each year into the trust fund from offshore oil and gas royalties,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “President Obama’s budget recommended full funding for LWCF at that $900 million level, and we urge Congress to work toward that goal in fiscal year 2013 and beyond.”

Read the LWCF Coalition's press release to learn more. 

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