Engaging Youth: Protecting the Gila River

We build the Hispanic community’s capacity to engage in areas that will improve the lives and well being for this generation and
those to come. And there was no better opportunity than helping youth in Las Cruces, New Mexico express their concern about protecting the Gila River, which has been threatened by a proposal to divert its water thus ending its status as the state’s last free-flowing river.

Our Response

As part of our effort to expose more Latinos to our nation’s public lands and emphasize through experience the importance of preserving it for future generations, we planned a trip with the youth group at Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Las Cruces. In October 2013, we took 25 Latino youth camping in the Gila National Forest and taking part in a six-hour hike along the West Fork of the Gila River. The youth had heard about the issues facing the river, but had never had the opportunity to see it for themselves. Through their firsthand experience, the youth saw that they should have a voice in the decision regarding the fate of the river.

Making a Difference

The first stop upon their return was to testify before the State Senate Water and Natural Resources Committee regarding the proposed Gila River Diversion Project, which would not only cost taxpayers approximately $200 million, but it would also end the Gila’s status as the last free flowing river in New Mexico.

Then in February 2014, seven Latino youth met with Gov. Susana Martinez’s office to share their experiences from their visit to the Gila River and why they feel that the proposal to divert its water should be rejected.

These kids are vocal champions of their public land heritage and embrace our moral obligation to preserve it. With their personal experience, they are eager to make a difference for the Gila – they are inspired to fight for its protection so that other young people will be able to enjoy it in the future.