This week we celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week and the more than 850 million acres protected within the National Wildlife Refuge System. It is a week when we should visit one of the 564 national wildlife refuges, and it is a time when we, as members of the Latino Conservation Alliance (LCA), reflect on our role in the protection of wildlife habitats and in conservation as a whole.
We see our role as stewards because we view the well-being of our lands, and the wildlife we share those lands with, as essential to our way of life. We depend on clean air, clean water, and healthy watersheds and, naturally, we speak up to conserve these precious natural resources. We have a moral obligation to do this.
Even though Latinos are 16 percent of the U.S. population, and that number is projected to grow to almost 1/3 of the population by 2050, Latinos are not represented proportionately on our public lands-- as land managers in leadership roles, community and business stakeholders, or as part of the cultural and historical stories we learn about our lands.
These lands belong to all of us. In order to ensure that our natural resources are protected for future generations, all people of the United States need to understand and participate in conservation efforts—whether that is as a supporter, a steward, or in a natural resources or policy making career.
That is why we, as LCA, sought recognition, with Senator Michael Bennet (CO), from our leaders during Hispanic Heritage Month to pass a resolution supporting the inclusion and engagement of Latinos in efforts to protect and conserve our natural resources. We received support from 16 U.S. Senators and 25 U.S. Representatives (in an identical House Resolution) to formally recognize in a non-binding resolution the “role of Latinos in protecting and preserving the land, water, and wildlife of the United States.”
Unfortunately, the Latino Conservation Resolution was not passed, and we have been wondering why since.
We seek answers from our elected officials who stood in the way of adopting the Latino Conservation Resolution, especially while they passed other resolutions recognizing other, just as important, issues such as:
- Senate Resolution 591, designating the week of October 9-15, 2016 as “National Case Management Week” to recognize the role of case management in improving health care outcomes for patients.
- Senate Resolution 592, expressing support for the designation of the month of September 2016 as “Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month” in order to educated communities across the United States about sickle cell disease and the need for research, early detection methods, effective treatments, and preventative care programs with respect to sickle cell disease.
- Senate Resolution 593 – designating September 22, 2016, as “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day” to raise awareness and encourage the prevention of falls among older adults.
- Senate Resolution 594 – expressing support for designation of the third Saturday in October 2016 as “National Animal Rescue Day” to create awareness of and educate individuals on the importance of adoption of animals, to create a humane environment for any pet, and to encourage animal adoptions throughout the United States.
- Senate Resolution 527 – recognizing the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the National Gallery of Art.
- Senate Resolution 578 – supporting Lights On Afterschool, a national celebration of after school programs held on October 20, 2016.
As anyone can see, resolutions give recognition to or raise awareness of particular issues. We are deeply concerned about the failure to pass a resolution that would have recognized Latino Conservation efforts across the country.
Finally, we acknowledge the efforts of those Congressional Members that co-sponsored the resolution and we thank them for their support.
Co-sponsors of the Senate’s Latino Conservation Resolution:
Sen. Menendez, Robert [D-NJ]
Sen. Reid, Harry [D-NV]
Sen. Udall, Tom [D-NM]
Sen. Coons, Christopher A. [D-DE]
Sen. Markey, Edward J. [D-MA]
Sen. Heinrich, Martin [D-NM]
Sen. Mikulski, Barbara A. [D-MD]
Sen. Franken, Al [D-MN]
Sen. Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]
Sen. Stabenow, Debbie [D-MI]
Sen. Boxer, Barbara [D-CA]
Sen. Feinstein, Dianne [D-CA]
Sen. Cantwell, Maria [D-WA]
Sen. Murray, Patty [D-WA]
Sen. Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD]
Sen. Heller, Dean [R-NV]
Co-sponsors of the House’s Latino Conservation Resolution:
Rep. Curbelo, Carlos [R-FL-26]
Rep. Cuellar, Henry [D-TX-28]
Rep. Hinojosa, Ruben [D-TX-15]
Rep. Serrano, Jose E. [D-NY-15]
Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7]
Rep. O'Rourke, Beto [D-TX-16]
Rep. Aguilar, Pete [D-CA-31]
Rep. Vargas, Juan [D-CA-51]
Rep. Sanchez, Linda T. [D-CA-38]
Rep. Honda, Michael M. [D-CA-17]
Rep. Sablan, Gregorio Kilili Camacho [D-MP-At Large]
Rep. Torres, Norma J. [D-CA-35]
Rep. Lowenthal, Alan S. [D-CA-47]
Rep. Cardenas, Tony [D-CA-29]
Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3]
Rep. Roybal-Allard, Lucille [D-CA-40]
Rep. Costa, Jim [D-CA-16]
Rep. Lujan Grisham, Michelle [D-NM-1]
Rep. Polis, Jared [D-CO-2]
Rep. Huffman, Jared [D-CA-2]
Rep. Castro, Joaquin [D-TX-20]
Rep. Gallego, Ruben [D-AZ-7]
Rep. Ruiz, Raul [D-CA-36]
Rep. Pascrell, Bill, Jr. [D-NJ-9]
Rep. Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [D-GU-At Large]