New Mexico Celebrates Latino Conservation Week

Roz Brown | Public News Service
July 15, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. — Latinos are the largest minority group in America, representing nearly 17% of the nation’s population. But when it comes to taking part in outdoor recreation activities, a 2018 report by the Outdoor Industry Association found only 10% of Latinos participated.

This is the 6th annual Latino Conservation Week, with as many as 150 events in 25 states. Grecia Nuñez, public lands fellow with New Mexico Wild, said some Latinos have had a more passive relationship with wilderness than other groups, but she believes social media is creating momentum for them to get involved in advocacy work for conservation.

“We’ve been out here using these spaces to picnic, to fish, for hunting, for recreation for a long time,” Nuñez said. “So it’s something that’s been important in Latino communities for a very long time.”

The Hispanic Access Foundation said the goal of the week is to “break down barriers for Latino communities to access public lands” and create a new generation of environmental stewards by having them participate in sunset walks, camping, hiking and canoeing. An interactive map showing events scheduled around the country this week can be found at latinoconservationweek.com.

Nuñez said calling attention to conservation efforts is especially important in New Mexico right now, where a fourth effort is under way to create a large diversion dam on the Gila River – first designated a wilderness area in 1924. Nuñez and other environmental activists support legislation to better protect the Gila by designating it a Wild and Scenic River.

“The Gila River is the last free-flowing river in New Mexico,” she said. “And in the desert that is something that is really important to not only people but also our ecosystems, our wildlife.”

The Upper Gila watershed is home to seven threatened or endangered species that could be harmed by a diversion project. The New Mexico governor and the state’s congressional delegation oppose the project. In 2019, the American Rivers conservation group cited the proposed diversion project when naming the Gila River the nation’s most endangered river.

This article originally appeared in the Public News Service.