Bilingual Rangers and Smokey Bear getting ready for a day of fun activities with Latino park visitors at Sandy Point State Park.
(L to R) Isabel Layton, Matias Orrego, Smokey, Daniel Salomon, and Julian Segovia.
Credit: Chesapeake Conservancy

“I love spending time outside because it is a chance to interact with the world and actively connects me to a brilliant ecosystem much larger than myself. Working with Latino visitors gives me the opportunity to help others build these relationships to nature.”

-Isabel Layton, in her second year as a Chesapeake Conservancy Bilingual Ranger, and a student at the University of Maryland

“We Latinos are hard working people and usually have little time off on the weekends or holidays. Being a bilingual ranger means that I can help my community best enjoy their time in the parks and make it a little more meaningful experience for everyone.”

-Julian Segovia, enjoying his third year in 2021 as a Chesapeake Conservancy Bilingual Ranger.
Julian grew up in Annapolis, Maryland and is a student at the University of Navarra in Spain

Visit a park and you’ll find some people hiking, jogging, paddling, fishing, swimming, watching birds; some chilling in the shade enjoying a serene view, and others picnicking with family and listening to music, all celebrating our connection with nature. Knowing what draws different people to the outdoors, or what they are looking for in an outdoor experience, is key to engaging a broader diversity of visitors to our sites—and ultimately to building a diverse and strong network of stewards of our shared environment and honoring our Madre Tierra (Mother Earth). We want and need everyone to enjoy and to care for the lands and waters in the Bay watershed.

The National Park Service’s Chesapeake Gateways has joined hands with Corazón Latino to help partners in the Gateways Network to understand how to better connect and create meaningful engagement opportunities with key audiences, to more effectively invite and welcome Latino visitors to their sites and to include and involve them as members of the community. A recent series of three online trainings, “Tu Chesapeake,” provided by Corazón Latino (and available for viewing here) has kicked off that process, providing background and best practices, with more resources to come. The growing community of practice will contribute to improving communication, expanding culturally relevant opportunities, and creating meaningful engagement with local Latino communities.

Some results of a survey on Latino attitudes towards the environment
Source: Earthjustice & GreenLatinos, 2015

Cultural connections are central to the celebration and awareness-raising that happens annually during Latino Conservation Week, which for 2021 is taking place this week, July 17-25. The event, sponsored by the Hispanic Access Foundation, was founded in 2014 to support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources. During this week, and even throughout the month, numerous parks and other sites are hosting a variety of conservation education, outdoor recreation, and outdoor fitness events, paired with music and other activities, tailored to Latino and Spanish-speaking members of the public through language and cultural competency. After a year of isolation due to the pandemic, staff at parks throughout the region are as excited to get together as are their visitors.

A team of bright, energetic, and talented young people is building relationships while leading lively educational and recreational activities at several parks in the watershed. The Chesapeake Conservancy’s Bilingual Rangers are providing programs geared toward the variety of Latino visitors, while serving as Spanish-speaking ambassadors for nature and public lands. Sponsored by the National Park Service, MD Department of Natural Resources, NOAA, and the Maryland Heritage Areas Program, the rangers help connect with park visitors while developing valuable career skills. Additional support comes from this summer’s Latino Heritage Intern, Maya Rodriguez, who is helping to reach more underrepresented communities within the Chesapeake Bay Program, through the NPS-supported Latino Heritage Internship Program.

All of these partners and resources can help to enrich our efforts to connect more people to nature, raise environmental awareness and build involvement. People of Hispanic or LatinX descent make up a growing portion (currently 8%) of the 18 million individuals living within the Chesapeake’s watershed, yet they are largely an untapped resource. Many already have a passion for the outdoors and can bring vital voices, perspectives, and contributions to conservation actions throughout the region. If we want to best nurture community connections, especially to support the next generation of stewards and the workforce, investing in culturally informed and competent programming will benefit us all. ¡Celebremos!

Want to join the fun? Find an event near you. Corazón Latino and Hispanic Access Foundation’s event kicking off Latino Conservation Week also celebrated the reopening of the Rock Creek Park Nature Center in DC. It included time outdoors under shade trees with live music, snacks, and fun activities to learn about the forest and its inhabitants—and exciting participation in the celebration from high level Department of Interior leadership. The fun and inclusive atmosphere set the tone for the many other free, family-friendly, no-experience-necessary events happening around the Chesapeake Bay watershed during the week. Some examples include sites offering nature tours, exploring treehouses and botanical collections, hiking trails, bird walks, fitness classes, kayaking, park and trail cleanup events, educational events with live animals, a kids’ tree climbing experience with arborists providing safety gear and assistance, and fishing fun learning programs. Latino Outdoors is another partner leading activities at a number of sites, along with other volunteers. Maryland State Parks is hosting its annual Es Mi Parque events, with help from the Bilingual Rangers. Fairfax County, Virginia has expanded the week to a celebration throughout all of July with environmental education and service opportunities at parks.

About our partners:

Corazón Latino is a national 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to reconnect BIPOC communities with nature. It partners with federal agencies (NPS and USDA Forest Service) to support the fulfillment of Title VI of the Civil Rights and Executive Order 13895 Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government and Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad to embrace environmental justice values. Corazón Latino has presence in over 20 states and Puerto Rico.

Hispanic Access Foundation is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to connect Latinos with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society. HAF’s conservation program seeks to elevate diverse Latino voices and leaders to support Latino communities to advocate for the environmental issues that directly affect their daily lives. Our programming seeks to build bridges of access for Latinos to stewardship, conservation advocacy, and recreation opportunities to promote the health of their communities and the natural environment.

Don’t forget to send us your 2020 land conservation success stories as they develop. They’ll land in the new and growing collection at success.chesapeakeconservation.org, a tool we can all use to show collective impact. See the checklist below for easy-to-follow, simple guidelines.