Uplifting Latinos in the Outdoors: LCV in Conversation with Champions from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Jul 27, 2022

Since launching in 2014, Latino Conservation Week has served as an important time to both celebrate the contributions of Latinos in the conservation movement and recognize the inequitable access to the outdoors Latino communities face. Through panels, community roundtable discussions, hiking excursions and more, hundreds of local and national organizations participate each year to support the Latino community’s passion for the outdoors and inform policymakers and the public about Latino perspectives on conservation.

Latino communities have historically and continue to face barriers to accessing the outdoors due to a legacy of systemic oppression. Lack of information, distance from outdoor recreation and exclusion from the conservation movement have all produced cycles of inequitable access to the outdoors. Latino Conservation Week works to address these obstacles by providing opportunities for Latino youth and families to get outside and amplifying their voices. Read this blog by Chispa, an affiliated partner of LCV, to learn more about the significance of LCW.

To celebrate Latino Conservation Week, LCV hosted a Twitter Q&A with climate champions from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss their work expanding access to the outdoors for Latino communities. LCV is proud to uplift Reps. Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Mike Levin (CA-49), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Tony Cardenas (CA-29) and Senators Alex Padilla (CA) and Bob Menendez (NJ). We’re particularly excited that Rep. Barragán, as mentioned in our Twitter Q&A, just introduced a resolution in Congress that would officially and permanently designate the third week of July as Latino Conservation Week

Read their answers to our questions below:

1). Each year, the Hispanic Access Foundation leads Latino Conservation Week to promote outdoor recreation and demonstrate Latino communities’ commitment to conservation across the country. What does this week mean to you and how do you like to celebrate?

“Conservation is deeply embedded in so many of our histories, traditions and cultures. For me, Latino Conservation Week is about connecting with nuestra tierra and recommitting to fighting for bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.” – Representative Tony Cárdenas

“Growing up in a community like mine, Latino Conservation Week is deeply personal. El Paso has so many places to enjoy nature like Lost Dog trail or Castner Range. Hiking the Franklin Mountains during the pandemic has been a vital part of staying mentally and physically healthy!” – Representative Veronica Escobar

“Some of my most cherished memories are family trips to Yosemite, the San Gabriel Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean, among the other natural landmarks CA offers. This Latino Conservation Week, we must remember that everyone deserves access to these outdoor spaces,” – Senator Alex Padilla

Senator Bob Menendez | Representative Salud Carbajal | Representative Mike Levin



2). Why is Latino Conservation Week so important? How is getting outdoors and enjoying nature a racial justice issue?  

“Many Central Coast families utilize California’s public lands to enjoy the open spaces & natural beauty of our nation. It’s important to preserve these locations & protect them from the effects of climate change so every family can continue making memories there for generations to come,” – Representative Salud Carbajal

“Access to nature is proven to benefit physical, mental, and emotional health, and leads to healthier communities,” – Representative Mike Levin

“Latino Conservation Week is important because it encourages our community to embrace and reconnect with the great outdoors. Our planet is beautiful, and Latino voices are necessary to not only help it survive, but flourish,” – Representative Tony Cardenas

Senator Alex Padilla | Representative Veronica Escobar | Representative Nanette Barragán



3). The growing outdoor recreation economy creates opportunities for communities across the county. What does this mean for Latino communities in your state or district? 

“The Outdoor Recreation Economy generates 100,000 jobs and over $8.7 billion in value for NJ’s economy. As we work to create new opportunities for communities of all sizes to get outside, it will also create new jobs and economic opportunities, especially for communities of color,” – Senator Bob Menendez

“As Californians know, coastal tourism and recreation help drive our local economies. Our California coastline supports nearly 600,000 jobs and roughly $42.3 billion in economic activity. When we protect our ocean, we’re protecting thousands of jobs for everyone in the region,” – Representative Mike Levin

Representative Salud Carbajal | Representative Nanette Barragán | Representative Veronica Escobar



4). How have you been able to expand access to nature in your role as a member of Congress? 

“I sponsored the Outdoors for All Act, which would fund more urban parks in low-income communities. I have also led efforts each year to pass over $100 million in funding in the budget for urban parks, and voted to pass the Great American Outdoors Act to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” – Representative Nanette Barragán

“In Congress, I’m working to protect the Central Coast’s natural resources & public lands by getting bills passed like my Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which expands protections for thousands of acres in the Los Padres National Forest & Carrizo Plain National Monument,” – Representative Salud Carbajal 

Senator Bob Menendez | Senator Alex Padilla | Representative Mike Levin



5): [From Chispa] Nuestros líderes de Chispa luchan a diario por el acceso equitativo a los espacios públicos y al aire limpio y respirable. ¿Cómo están trabajando usted y @HispanicCaucus para garantizar que nuestras comunidades puedan acceder al aire libre, usar infraestructura verde y una mejor salud y bienestar? (Our Chispa líderes fight daily for equitable access to public spaces and clean, breathable air. How are you and @HispanicCaucus working to ensure our comunidades can access the outdoors, use green infrastructure, and breathe cleaner air for better health and wellbeing?)

Un movimiento de conservación ambiental significativo debe incluir voces latinas y diversas. Estoy muy orgulloso de poder trabajar con líderes latinos para apoyar medidas inclusivas como la ‘America the Beautiful Initiative’ de la administración Biden-Harris” (“A meaningful environmental conservation movement must include Latino and diverse voices. I am very proud to be able to work with Latino leaders to support inclusive measures like the ‘America the Beautiful Initiative’ of the Biden-Harris administration.”) – Senator Alex Padilla

Junto con mis colegas del Hispanic Caucus, hemos respaldado muchos proyectos de ley que abordarán las principales amenazas del cambio climático, harán que nuestras comunidades sean más resilientes y puedan lograr la justicia climática en general.” (“Together with my colleagues from the Hispanic Caucus, we have supported many bills that will address the major threats of climate change, make our communities more resilient, and can achieve climate justice in general.”) – Senator Bob Menendez

“Como Presidente del Grupo de Trabajo sobre el Clima de Hispanic Caucus, dirigí una carta sobre [la iniciativa Justice 40 del presidente] para priorizar las necesidades de comunidades latinas para la protección del medio ambiente. Esto incluye espacios verdes y soporte para energía limpia.” (“As Chair of the Hispanic Caucus Climate Task Force, I addressed a letter on the President’s Justice 40 initiative to prioritize the needs of Latino communities for environmental protection. This includes green spaces and support for clean energy.”) – Representative Nanette Barragán