California News Service
JOSHUA TREE, Calif. – The third annual Latino Conservation Week starts Saturday and runs through July 23, and its backers want everyone to get outside and enjoy California’s open spaces.
There are 18 separate events planned across the state, including six in the southern California desert, where President Obama created three new national monuments in February.
Maite Arce, president and chief executive of the Hispanic Access Foundation, said the movement is growing nationally every year.
“We started with 17 partners, 17 events,” she said. “The second year, the number of events grew to 52, and this year we already have about 100 partners.”
Arce said the events also celebrate the Latino community’s role in pushing to designate the new Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountain national monuments. Park managers nationwide are teaming up with local groups to draw families out to experience their public lands. A full list of events is online at latinoconservationweek.com.
Leoda Valenzuela, program manager for the Council of Mexican Federations in North America, said a big priority for her group is developing Latino leaders to carry on the cause.
“There’s not a lot of awareness in our communities about these open spaces,” she said, “so we seek to create that awareness and involve people in outings, hikes, and also in the stewardship of these lands.”
Pastor Frank Ruiz of the Spanish Seventh Day Adventist Church in Indio said the goal of “Por la Creacion.” the faith-based alliance he co-founded, is to strengthen his community’s ties to the land.
“Once they experience the richness of the desert, of nature,” he said, “they’re going to want to experience it again and again and again.”
Some of the sites of California events include Joshua Tree National Park, Tijuana Slough, the Santa Monica Mountains, the Ballona Wetlands and a nature trail in Modesto.
More information is online at latinoconservationweek.com.