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HAF Briefs Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Increasing Latino Engagement with National Parks, Protection of Western Lands

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday, Hispanic Access Foundation President Maite Arce and her family recapped the past summer's "Four Stops, One Destination" tour for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). The tour was created to increase Latino engagement with national parks and their understanding of how we can protect them for future generations. National Park Service Director Jonathon Jarvis also described current park service efforts to engage Hispanics. 

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140212/DC63984)

"This campaign introduced Latinos to new destinations and showed them how accessible, secure and enjoyable they can be," said Arce. "At the same time, we explained the threats these parks face from oil and gas development. Hispanics look at preserving our public lands from both a spiritual and family-oriented perspective – this community believes we have a moral obligation to protect the environment."

With increased attendance to these national parks and awareness about threats, such as oil and gas development, pollution and water shortage, HAF expects more Latinos to take an active role in protecting these natural wonders for future generations. Environmental stewardship from the Hispanic community is a high priority.

"In many ways, the Latino community and the National Park Service are natural partners for protecting our nation's most beautiful landscape," said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). "Through greater exposure to our National Parks, many of which have rich cultural and historical ties to our heritage, the Hispanic community can become its strongest supporters and allies in protecting these sacred spaces."

Currently, only 9 percent of the nation's approximately 54 million Latinos visit our country's national parks each year, according the American Latino Heritage Fund. While reasons for this may vary from transportation to concerns about safety, HAF has found that awareness is one of the biggest barriers to entry.

"One approach to building a stronger connection with the Latino community, particularly young people, is telling the story of the Latino historical and cultural heritage preserved by the Parks," said Jarvis. "This project is a step forward in reaching new audiences and sharing the message about the National Park Service's mission to preserve this nation's natural and cultural heritage for the enjoyment of this and future generations."

Arce's son Luke Miguel Argleben (18), who participated in the tour and saw his own interest in protecting these public lands increase, echoes this sentiment.

"When I was younger I thought these places were untouchable, but I saw through the Four Stops tour that they are touchable," said Argleben. "Like others, I care about my connection to these lands — they are part of my heritage — which is why we need to find equal ground between energy development and conservation. I want future generations to see what I see and to enjoy the beauty of these parks as they stand today."

One such way to take a more balanced approach to how and where oil and gas leasing takes place is by using innovative tools such as master leasing plans. MLPs are administered by the Bureau of Land Management and provide an analysis of the impact on resources, recreation values and local economies as part of the lease decision-making process. This will ensure that energy development near our National Parks is done responsibly and doesn't negatively affect the area. 

The "Four Stops, One Destination," tour covered 950 miles. It began with Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado (July 13-16), continued to Arches National Park in Utah (July 16-17), then to Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park (July 17-20) and ended at Chaco Culture National Park in New Mexico (July 20). Arce was joined by her husband Ted, sons Luke (18) and Noah (16), and family friend Jonathan (15).

A 10-part video series detailing the trip, the family's experiences and oil and gas threats is available for viewing on YouTube. High-resolution photos from the Four Stops tour and of the CHC briefing are also available for publication by request at [email protected].

About Hispanic Access Foundation
Hispanic Access Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that improves the lives of Latinos in the United States and promotes civic engagement by educating, motivating, and helping them to access trustworthy support systems.  For more information visit www.hispanicaccess.org.

Contact: Robert Fanger
Phone: 317-410-7668
E-mail: [email protected]

SOURCE Hispanic Access Foundation

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