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Celebrating the Outdoors for Latino Conservation Week

Two hikes are taking place at San Juan Island, above, as part of Latino Conservation Week. (Jeff Clark/BLM Oregon/Washington)
Two hikes are taking place at San Juan Island, above, as part of Latino Conservation Week. (Jeff Clark/BLM Oregon/Washington)
July 19, 2016

SEATTLE - It's Latino Conservation Week, and groups across the nation are focused on access to public lands for Latino communities. All this week, groups will be hosting events outdoors for Latino families to promote recreation and the protection of natural resources.

Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation, which started the initiative in 2014, said the week is a way for Latino communities to demonstrate their passion for the outdoors. But that's not its only purpose.

"It's also an opportunity to make sure that the Latino community is aware of other places that may not be traditionally visited by us: trails and parks and waterways," she said.

Arce said the community has a strong commitment to protecting public lands. According to a poll by Colorado College, 77 percent of Hispanics are opposed to selling off public lands in order to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Arce said transportation to parks often is a barrier for the community. She said the purpose of Latino Conservation Week is to make sure people who typically aren't represented on public lands have a chance to explore them.

"We break down those barriers to having them be able to actively enjoy their public lands," she added.

Rafaella Wicker, intern on San Juan Island National Park is leading a hike tonight under the full moon and on Friday at the English Camp on San Juan Island as part of the week-long initiative. She said the activity is a good opportunity for the Latino community to come together.

"Just a great way to celebrate the Latino culture and heritage and bring people out to nature and the Latinos involved with the community, as well as everybody just uniting together," she said.

The Hispanic population is the fastest growing population in Washington state. According to the Pew Research Center, 12 percent of the state's population is Hispanic.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA