news releases

30 November -0001

Latino Faith Leaders visit Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

Category: News Releases

On May 2nd, a group of Latino faith leaders from Victorville, Apple Valley and 

Hesperia, along with several youth between the ages of 9 and 19, joined together in 

an outing to visit the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

This visit to a vital area of the California desert was not by chance. At the end of 

April, Por La Creación: Faith-based Alliance, which develops stewards of God’s 

creation by educating and engaging this generation to leave a legacy for the future, 

brought these pastors together to discuss the need to develop awareness about the 

threats faced by the California desert, preserve cultural heritage and highlight the 

importance of having a strong Latino voice in the protection effort.

“It’s important for me because as we are getting in contact with nature, which is 

something God created for us with a purpose, we better understand why it needs 

protecting,” said Pastor Raul Velásquez of Iglesia El Nuevo Comienzo in Victorville. 

“The purpose is for us to enjoy, have clean air, and trees — all of nature.”

The California desert is facing major challenges today — exporting groundwater 

from desert aquifers, air pollution, rapid community development and encroachments 

from renewable energy developments — that jeopardize its future.

“Most of the time faith leaders don’t take advantage of what they have around them. 

Some of it is lack of information, and some of it is that they just need a push,” said 

Martín Martinez, president of Youth Impact. “When people come out to our public 

lands, something happens. A fellowship happens when you come out to a park or a 

mountain or the desert, when you get out of church and there is less stress, you 

open in a different way.”

During the outing to Big Morongo Canyon, “the youth learned how to use binoculars 

to watch birds, learned about wildlife and plants found in Big Morongo Canyon 

Preserve, and what makes the preserve a very special place,” said Sara Benitez 

from Hispanic Access Foundation. 

The attendees also learned about the California Desert Conservation and Recreation 

Act of 2015, which was recently introduced in Congress by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 

and how it would help protect the desert for future generations. Amongst the 

provisions of this legislation is a proposal to protect Big Morongo Canyon Preserve 

and adjacent public lands as the Sand to Snow National Monument.

The experience was eye-opening for the 25 young participants, like Esmeralda 

Rodriguez, who took videos of the outing and regarded the visit to Big Morongo 

Canyon Preserve as a spiritual journey. “It was a beautiful experience,” said 

Rodriguez. “I learned that it is easier to feel God’s presence outdoors, the freedom of 

listening to the sounds of nature, and more than anything, the feeling that we are all 

together in this.”

About Us

Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

Phone: (202) 640-4342

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