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November 19, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
Latino Groups Commend Decision By Interior Secretary to Restrict Oil Shale Operations and Protect Colorado’s Water Supply
Clean water and healthier communities scored a crucial victory in Colorado on November 9, when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to protect the state from oil shale speculation.
On Nov. 9, the Department of the Interior released a plan that would require oil shale companies to provide solid proof that their activities will balance the state’s economic and environmental needs before starting any commercial exploitation. Reversing a Bush-era decision that would have given industry free reign on 2 million acres of public lands, BLM’s plan effectively protects 1.6 million acres of public land, as well as areas of critical wildlife habitat.
Latino organizations, including the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) and Nuestro Río, welcomed the Salazar decision and reminded the public about the Latino community’s overwhelming support for protection of public lands and the safety and reliability of their water supply.
“We needed a smart approach to oil shale development and Secretary Salazar deserves credit for making this a priority for Colorado, and for the state’s Latinos, which make up a significant portion of the state’s population and depend on the Colorado River and water supplies for their quality of life and economic opportunity,” said Maite Arce, executive director of HAF. “Costly, water-hungry oil shale speculation would put Western families’ health and safety at risk.”
According to a recent Sierra Club national survey conducted in cooperation with NCLR, more than nine in 10 (92%) Latino voters agree that they “have a moral responsibility to take care of God’s creation on this earth —the wilderness, the forests, the oceans, lakes and rivers.”
Also, the survey found that nearly seven in 10 (69%) Latino voters support presidential designations of more public land as national monuments.
“The Colorado River doesn’t just run through the Southwest, it runs through our culture and it nourishes our lives,” said Andrés Ramírez, Director at Nuestro Río. “Saving the Colorado River is about protecting our Latino heritage and promoting our future.”
Indeed, a survey by Colorado College conducted in Western states earlier this year revealed that 87 percent of Hispanics believe we can protect the environment at the same time we work for a strong economy.
In addition, the poll found that 89 percent of Hispanic respondents agreed that resources must be invested in preserving their state’s land, water and wildlife, regardless of the current budgetary crisis.
Estimates by the Government Accountability Office have projected that full-scale oil shale development could require more than 123 billion gallons of water each year, enough water for more than 750,000 households. Additionally, the mining and processing of oil shale can leach toxic metals and pollutants, such as lead and arsenic, into rivers and groundwater. BLM’s plan takes a step in the right direction by limiting the amount of public land that could be subjected to oil shale development. Rather than promoting high-risk, high-cost technologies like oil shale, we need to begin the transition to clean, efficient fuels that benefit both our economy and our land, water, and public health.
- By Javier Sierra
Article from SierraClub.org
October 24, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
The Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids took over 60 youth, including a majority of Latinos, to Colorado’s Browns Canyon in July 2012. The trip inspired many of the students to take action. In September 2012, eleven of the Denver-area high schoolers traveled to Washington, DC to meet with their elected officials, including Sen. Mark Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet, the director of the National Park Service, representatives from the Department of Interior, White House officials and others. This video documents their journey.
October 17, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
By Javier Sierra
The most valuable gift we can give our children and grandchildren does not come with a price tag. Its value is so hard to calculate, we would run out of zeros to determine it.
An entire generation offers this legacy, from the richest to the poorest. It’s called Nature (with capital n), the synonym of life, health and happiness. And all —young and old— must be aware of its vital importance.
And that’s precisely what 60 Latino kids did this summer during a weekend at Browns Canyon, CO: explore and enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the great American West.
Organized and funded by Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids, the outing included camping overnight and white-water rafting on the Arkansas River.
“It was so exciting,” says Jennie Hurrieta, a Denver high school senior who took the trip down Class 3 rapids along with several friends. “First, I was very scared, but now I’m happy that I did it. Now I love white-water rafting.”
“The trip down was my favorite moment,” says Itzel Saenz, an 18-year-old student at Red Rocks Community College in Denver. “I had never done it before. I also enjoyed how to set up a tent.”
The students and their families enjoyed this experience surrounded by amazing biodiversity and natural beauty. Being in contact with the outdoors and spending the night with only the stars as your roof sooth the spirit and cleanse the soul.
In fact, students who get in touch with nature do better in school. According to a California state survey conducted among mostly Latino students, outdoors education programs increase math and science scores by 27 percent.
Indeed, study after study confirms that outdoors experiences are particularly close to the heart of the Latino community.
According to a Colorado College conducted in Western states, 75 percent of Latinos favor the establishment of more national parks and national monuments. Also, 78 percent agreed we can build a robust economy at the same time we protect nature.
Moreover, a national Latino poll conducted by the Sierra Club and NCLR revealed that 92 percent of us agree that protecting God’s Creation is a moral responsibility.
“We take the mountains for granted because they are always there,” says Jennie. “But we never really realize how beautiful they are until we go out there and experience it up close and personal.”
But so much beauty could not always be there. Browns Canyon is threatened on several fronts. The construction of roads and other infrastructure has increased erosion an, the bald eagle, the mountain lion and many more.d destroyed some vital areas of this ecosystem. Also, this pressure has endangered several species, such as the peregrine falcon.
This degradation is having consequences for communities close to the canyon as they are experiencing draught because of the lower levels of underground water.
“We learned a lot about water and the scarcity of it,” says Itzel. “The main priority right now is to save water. We also were told to be very careful with fires, never to start a fire near a tree.”
Browns Canyon and so many other natural wonders could disappear unless we all contribute to their preservation. The students learned that President Obama has the power to make sure this legacy will be enjoyed by future generations by designating them as national monuments.
And this month, several participants, including Jennie and Itzel, traveled to Washington, DC, and visited the White House to promote the natural treasures that belong to us all. And happily, their visit coincided with the designation of another gorgeous Colorado place, Chimney Canyon, as a national monument.
The reward is indeed priceless.
Hispanics are passionate about their public parks and open spaces. Parks are often the center of family life and activities, used as social settings for picnics and get-togethers with family and friends. As such, their protection ranks high on Hispanics’ priority list.
So, it’s of little surprise to me when I see the results of polls, like the recent 2012 Colorado College Western States Survey, which shows that the protection of parks, clean air and water is a top issue for Latinos. In fact, 87 percent of Latinos surveyed believe we can protect land and water while still having a strong economy – we don’t have to choose one over the other. Even further, 94 percent agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of western states.
It seemed only natural for the Hispanic Access Foundation to launch an online petition where Latinos can urge President Barack Obama to create news parks and monuments, as well as to continue protections for our land, air and water. Upon signing, the petition delivers an email directly to the White House.
Hispanics need a way to inform their elected officials about their concerns for protection and funding related to the environment and our natural spaces. This petition gives them a megaphone for their voices to be heard.
And Hispanics should receive unprecedented attention.
The U.S. Latino population is now at 50.5 million – 16.3 percent of the total population – according to the 2010 Census. Not only has the population reached new heights, but Latinos are also a growing force in elections. Between 2004 and 2008, the number of Latino voters grew by 28 percent, while the total number of voters increased by only four percent. 2012 should see a record number of Latinos heading to the polls.
To be clear, cultural traditions are not the sole reason these and other Latino voters consistently express strong support for clean air, water and land. The U.S. Hispanic population is disproportionately affected by environmental contamination in many parts of the country.
Latinos are 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of air pollution, unsafe drinking water, and lead and mercury contamination – all of which can cause serious health problems – according to the American Lung Association. Hispanics also face higher rates of asthma than whites, and because they account for nearly one-third of those not protected by health insurance, they are less likely to receive specialized care.
In the Colorado College survey, which polled 2,400 register Latino voters in six key western states, 80 percent of the respondents view air pollution as a serious problem in their state, and see the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws as important protections rather than burdensome regulations.
A 2004 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council provides some credence to that belief. Ninety one (91) percent of Hispanics in the country live in metropolitan areas where air pollution is often present. One-third of U.S. Latinos live in western states where arsenic, industrial chemicals and fertilizer residues often contaminate local drinking water supplies. Furthermore, the study found that one and half million U.S. Latinos live in colonias – unincorporated communities with substandard housing – along the U.S.-Mexico border, where a lack of potable water and sewage treatment contributes to waterborne diseases such as hepatitis and cholera.
The environmental concerns make the voices of Latino voters all the more important. And for the sake of this generation and the next, its time for policymakers to finally acknowledge and embrace the will of the nation’s Hispanics.
Read more at HuffingtonPost.com
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), created by Congress almost 50 years ago, was intended to reinvest a portion of public revenues from offshore oil and gas production in the protection of our most precious land resources.
In addition, our visionary leaders intended that the LWCF would provide recreational facilities and close-to-home outdoor opportunities for Americans in every state.
Unfortunately, fulfilling the promise has proven elusive.
The LWCF was supposed to receive $900 million per year – a drop in the bucket of offshore revenues that typically tally in the billions. The money intended to fund the LWCF is not taxpayer money; it consists of a portion of royalties paid to the federal treasury from oil and gas companies that profit from access to our waters offshore.
Yet Congress has shortchanged the LWCF nearly every year, diverting monies to other purposes. Full funding has been appropriated only once in the LWCF’s 46-year history.
In 2007, funding for the program sunk to a low of $138 million. Chronic shortages have resulted in a huge backlog of land and outdoor recreation protection projects across federal public lands and state and local parks.
The LWCF has been instrumental in the preservation or creation of a number of projects, to see some examples click here.
Given the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, the vision behind the LWCF is more relevant now than ever. In a national bipartisan poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in May, 85 percent of respondents viewed the LWCF as especially important in light of the oil spill.
The success and effectiveness of the LWCF is at a critical moment. The American’s Great Outdoors Initiative takes as its premise that lasting conservation solutions should rise from the American people.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is considering legislation that could include full funding for this indispensable program. Our leaders have a chance now to finally fulfill the promise made in 1964, when the LWCF was created.
This past summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that included a provision to fully fund the LWCF. The U.S. Senate must act now to capture this opportunity to finally ensure that the LWCF receives its due.