Latinos in Colorado advocate for climate action and environmental protections
By: Jessica Godinez
As we gear up for the Latino Conservation Week, data from Colorado College’s 12th annual State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll demonstrates the Latino community’s continued commitment to conservation efforts and bold action for policies that protect our climate and natural resources. The poll results show the demand from Latino voters for bold climate action from decision-makers and indicate high levels of concern about environmental threats like drought, wildfires, climate change, loss of wildlife, and natural resource protection.
Latino’s public opinion in the West about protecting the natural environment continues to strengthen according to this year’s polling, along with Latino support for policy proposals to conserve the country’s natural resources. Further, the poll showed support for conserving public lands by Latino voters, with 87 percent of Latinos supporting a national goal of conserving 30 percent of land and waters in America by the year 2030. 84 percent of Latino voters in the West support the creation of new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation. According to The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial and Economic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America, co-authored by Jenny Rowland-Shea from the Center of American Progress and Shanna Edberg from the Hispanic Access Foundation, the Nature Gap refers to the lack of parks, nature and green space in communities of color and low-income communities. As a response to addressing the Nature Gap, a majority of voters, 82 percent, would like to see funding provided to ensure that more communities, in particular those that have lacked access and been excluded historically, have safe access to nearby parks and natural areas. Similarly, 89 percent of Latinos support the recently restored protections for Bears Ears National Monument, which will protect natural areas and sacred Native sites while allowing continued access to recreational activities.
The poll also showed overwhelming support by Latino voters in the West for transitioning to clean energy production, with 83 percent of Latinos gradually transitioning to 100 percent of our energy production coming from clean, renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydropower over the next ten years. In fact, the poll results demonstrate that Latino voters largely prioritize the protection of natural resources over the increase of domestic energy. Specifically, 73 percent of Latino voters in the West prefer their congressional representatives place more emphasis on ensuring we protect sources of clean water, our air quality, and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on our public lands over ensuring we produce more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available for responsible oil and gas drilling and mining. In fact, almost three-quarters of all voters in the West support stopping or significantly curbing oil and gas development on public lands.
As climate change continues to worsen, causing more frequent and intense storms, the concerns of Latino voters in the West continue to increase, as well. As compared to previous years, Latino voters in the West express stronger concerns about the devastating effects of climate change, like drought, extreme heat, and wildfires. This year, 84 percent of voters are concerned about the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires. According to 69 percent of voters, these concerns have grown over the course of the last ten years. When polled, 68 percent of Latinos expressed similar concerns about drought and highlighted it as an extreme or serious issue.
When it comes to water conservation efforts, the poll results show Latino voters’ concerns around water are also growing. In 2020, only 44 percent of Latino voters in the West say that loss of habitat for fish and wildlife is an extreme or serious issue while this year, 50 percent of voters expressed concern over fish and wildlife habitats. When polled about pollution in waterways, 56 percent of Latino voters classify the pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams as an extreme or serious issue. Further, a majority of Latino voters (81 percent) prefer that state water officials invest more time and resources in pushing for a wiser use of our current water supply by encouraging more water conservation, a reduction in use, and an increase in the recycling of water than in diverting more water from rivers in less populated areas of the state to communities where more people live. In fact, 91 percent of Latino voters support an increase in federal funding to extend running water and sanitation services to rural areas and to tribal communities that are currently restricted from access.
Each year, these poll results help further solidify the Latino communities’ position as advocates in the conservation space by providing evidence that Latinos seek bold climate action and policy protecting our country’s natural resources. Additionally, these results demonstrate the Latino community’s commitment to the creation of new land and water designations through campaigns like those for Avi Kwa Ame National Monument and the Gila River Wild & Scenic legislation. With this in mind, we urge the Biden Administration to stay steady in taking bold actions that center the voices and concerns of the most vulnerable communities in the fight against climate change.
Jessica Godinez is the Program Manager of Conservation Programs at Hispanic Access Foundation. As a first-generation Mexicana living in the United States, Jessica is passionate about ensuring safe and equitable opportunities for all. At Hispanic Access Foundation, she works to ensure outdoor access and equity through community engagement, education, & advocacy. In her free time, she can be found in the natural world –climbing, hiking, camping, or simply existing in the outdoors.