Soto column: Protecting public lands a priority for Western Slope’s Latino community
Defiende Nuestra Tierra
This past week, I participated in the inaugural Latino Advocacy Week, which “supports Latino communities, organizations, families, and individuals becoming advocates for themselves and in their own communities around the issues that impact their daily lives.” As the Director of Defiende Nuestra Tierra (Defend our Land) for Wilderness Workshop, I wanted to make sure elected officials know that protecting public lands is a priority for the Latino community on the western slope.
Public lands or “Nuestras Tierras Publicas” are a key part of our Latino identity, and they weave a narrative of the diverse and complex history of our nation and our people. These places, all of which are Indigenous ancestral lands, preserve our shared cultural heritage, provide places for solace and to recreate, are an integral part of our economy, and are where we traditionally spend time with family, friends, and our communities.
However, Latino communities across our state, the country and the world are experiencing cumulative health and economic impacts of poor air and water quality, and suffering disproportionate consequences of extreme heat, wildfires, drought and other impacts of the climate crisis. With Latinos on track to become 30% of the U.S. population by 2050, which has already happened in Eagle and Garfield counties, we will continue to experience these severe consequences of a warming planet at an unequal rate.
Science has found that 30% of the planet must be protected by 2030 in order to address the biodiversity and climate change crises; action on this necessary and inspiring goal is commonly referred to as Thirty by Thirty (30×30). Public lands, which comprise about a third of the land and water base in the US, will be crucial to forming a national network of protected lands and waters—linking large, wild public lands, to smaller, locally managed parks, greenbelts, small farm and ranch easements and other community-driven conservation projects.
30×30 is intended to be a locally-driven, multi-faceted conservation strategy that will create more opportunities for people to engage and guide decision-making about how to protect the nature closest to their communities, whether it be in downtown Los Angeles or in rural Colorado. Moving forward, we must center all 30×30 conservation efforts on equity.
These efforts must respect tribal sovereignty and traditional knowledge, and help our communities fulfill our visions and priorities for land and water stewardship. Strong pro-climate and pro-conservation support of Latino voters can be pivotal in protecting lands and waters over the next decade, but only if we integrate the voices of Indigenous, Black, Latino and all communities of color, who have been historically and systemically excluded from public lands decision-making.
I hope you’ll join Defiende Nuestra Tierra and Wilderness Workshop as we center equity in our efforts to protect public lands and work to meet the ambitious goals of 30×30. You can learn more at http://www.wildernessworkshop.org/30-by-30
Beatriz Soto is the Directora Defiende Nuestra Tierra at Wilderness Workshop. She is an immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico and mother to first-generation Coloradan. She and her family live in New Castle.
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