By Ernesto Cazare
Filmmaker and environmental activist Lito Tejada-Flores said it best, “You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.”
As a Latino activist and recreational enthusiast, I can appreciate Tejada-Flores’ commentary – especially its impact on the Latino community and preservation of the great outdoors. While our community does much to preserve our culture heritage, Latinos are often not recognized as passionate champions for the environment and conservation movement. But that’s far from the truth.
From Kings Canyon National Park to the San Joaquin River Parkway, Latinos throughout the Central Valley have a strong connection to our diverse landscapes and waterways. We urge our elected and appointed officials to safeguard our precious public lands, so that our children can enjoy fishing, hiking, hunting, camping and other outdoor activities for generations to come. For many Latinos, public lands funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), have provided the most accessible means to experience the outdoors.
From having places to connect with nature, spend time with family, enjoy outdoor recreation or explore cultural heritage, LWCF isn’t just about protecting pieces of land or waterways, it’s about the connection we have with these places and what they represent for each individual and communities. Simply put, these public lands matter to people – and the loss of the program would be felt for generations to come.
LWCF began more than 50 years ago as a bipartisan promise that has been instrumental in creating, protecting and providing access to public lands not just for the Latino community, but also for every American across the nation – and at no cost to taxpayers.
Its funding has touched nearly every county in the country and has been one of the most critical avenues in providing Latinos, low-income families, rural and urban communities with access to the outdoors.
That’s why I applaud Congressman TJ Cox for leading the bi-partisan effort to support a full and permanent funding of LWCF. We need to urge more members of California’s congressional delegation to fight for our communities and not lose sight of the benefits this program brings. It’s not too late to fund this critical program, and it’s now time for Congress to do so swiftly.
LWCF has touched the lives of so many throughout the Central Valley To now properly fund such a valuable and effective conservation tool would be a tragedy that would reverberate through future generations. LWCF represents a promise to the American people to conserve our public lands and ensure that everyone has access for generations to come. Let’s make sure we keep that promise and become active voices for LWFC.