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Advocates Urge Latinos to Support Conservation, Fight Climate Change

Advocates say discriminatory practices historically have limited Latino access to America's parks and public lands, negatively affecting their overall health and well-being. (Monart/AdobeStock)
Advocates say discriminatory practices historically have limited Latino access to America's parks and public lands, negatively affecting their overall health and well-being. (Monart/AdobeStock)

June 4, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Conservation and public health groups are calling on Latinos to take action to preserve public lands and combat climate change.

Groups such as the Hispanic Access Foundation are specifically calling for Latinos to push for final passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. That legislation funds the $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects in America's national parks and monuments, and permanently funds future needs.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona says the COVID-19 crisis has focused attention on how poverty and pollution historically have affected the health and well-being of Latino communities.

"The link between conservation and Latino health was clear prior to COVID-19, but these last two months of isolation or more has made that case clearer than ever," he states.

Grijalva says a final vote on the act is pending in Congress this week. It also would fully fund the long-postponed Land and Water Conservation Fund, which would improve parkland in almost every U.S. county, and return $4 in benefits for every dollar invested.

Grijalva chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources and says decades of discriminatory housing practices have brought low-income jobs and industrial pollution to many Latino neighborhoods with little or no access to parks or public lands.

"The vast majority of Latinos do not have that access to green space and parks that is close to their neighborhoods and homes," Grijalva points out. "That's a preexisting condition, because that prevents the needed fresh air to maintain physical and mental health."

Shanna Edberg directs conservation programs for the Hispanic Access Foundation. She says the group has developed an extensive Congressional Conservation Toolkit to help advocates and lawmakers better understand the role of the Latino community in promoting conservation.

"Latino voters want Congress to protect clean water, clean air and public lands," she states. "It's a resource for lawmakers and it's also a resource for advocates to know how their Latino constituents are thinking and voting on these issues. "

Edberg says passage of the Great American Outdoors Act would fund thousands of conservation projects across the country, creating much needed jobs to mitigate the economic fallout from COVID-19.

Disclosure: Hispanic Access Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ