Public lands are a key component of our American identity and they weave a narrative of the diverse and complex history of our nation. These places preserve our shared cultural heritage, provide places to recreate and connect with nature, spend time with family and our communities, and significantly contribute to industries, local economies, and provide millions of jobs and employment opportunities. Latinos have been an integral part of this shared history. However, our access to public lands, the equal representation of our cultural heritage, and our workforce contributions are not always acknowledged or represented. Hispanic Access Foundation wishes to uplift Latino voices as stewards of public lands and also highlight the inequalities in access, cultural heritage representation, public health, and employment and economic opportunities on public lands, related industries and workforces. Programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Antiquities Act serve to close the gap in these inequalities for Latinos and other diverse communities.
Why is this important to Latino communities?
Access & Health
- US Latino/Hispanic population exceeds 18% in the US. Latinos are 30% less likely to engage in physical activity than whites.
- By 2020, half of all youth in America will be of color. By 2043, a majority of our country’s residents will be people of color. Yet a 2014 Outdoor Foundation study found that 73 percent of Americans who participated in outdoor activities were white. In simple terms, the future of public lands depends on engaging and welcoming our diverse youth.
- Only one third of Latinos live within walking distance of a park compared to almost half of white individuals.
- Low income neighborhoods populated by minorities and recent immigrants are desperately park-poor.
- Latinos are 21% more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to live in urban heat islands, or immediate geographic areas dominated by heat-retaining asphalt and concrete where parks, shade-providing trees, and other vegetation are lacking.
Cultural Heritage and History
- The American Latino identity is composed of many narratives, there is not one dominant story that can completely tell the history and the contributions of Latinos, nor any particular community or culture, to the United States. Too often our stories and contributions to this nation are not represented in the narrative that our public lands portray. Thus, the protection of existing monuments, such as Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, and the creation of new parks and monuments are an opportunity to expand our nation’s narrative to be inclusive of the histories and contributions of Latino communities in the United States.
- 75% of Latinos would support the creation of new parks and monuments in their state.
Jobs & Economy
- The outdoor recreation economy generates $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs.
- 94% of Latinos see public lands, such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas as an “essential part” of the economies in these states.
- 83% of the National Park Service workforce is white, even though whites only make up 60% of the U.S. population. Workforce employment in national parks and other public land agencies does not reflect the US population, which is why it is crucial to protect our nation’s public lands and increase access for Latino and other diverse communities to these places so that they have opportunities to pursue natural resource careers and become the next generation of stewards and park rangers.
- 68% of Latino voters want Congress to place more emphasis to ensure we protect sources of clean water, our air quality and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on our national public lands.
- 69% of Latino voters in the West believe the presence of national public lands, such as national forests, national monuments, or wildlife refuges helps the economy in their state.