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Looking forward with Defiende Nuestra Tierra in 2023

Locations: Columns, Opinion Published

2023 is an important milestone for the Defiende Nuestra Tierra program at Wilderness Workshop (WW) — we’ll be marking our five-year anniversary! If you’re not familiar, Defiende Nuestra Tierra (which means “Defend our Land” in Spanish) was created by WW in 2018 out of a recognition that, to date, the Workshop had failed to engage the Latinx community in our work to protect public lands.

Creating a full-time position at WW — the Defiende director — has allowed the Workshop to build and deepen relationships across the Latinx community. Today, WW, the Defiende program and it’s over 1,150 members, ensure the public, elected officials, and federal land-management agency staff understand how much the Latinx community values public lands and wants to see them protected.

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With a lot of hard work from our first Defiende director, Beatriz Soto, and now me, we have increased the Latinx community’s knowledge of public lands and their management, built and expanded upon an environmental ethos, and focused on specific concerns of local Latinx communities regarding public lands.

A key component has been providing targeted opportunities for Latinx community members to connect with public lands. You might have attended one of our winter snowshoes, summer hikes, rafting at Latino Conservation Week, or our Posada and Christmas Tree Cutting right before Christmas! 

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Through these events, we’ve introduced over a thousand people to our amazing local public lands, cultivating both connection and activism to protect these places. A few other highlights from the past five years include: 

  • Making sure Spanish translation occurred at public meetings and translation was done of key documents from the federal land-management agencies. 
  • Inspiring local governments and non-profits to do more to connect with and include the Latinx community in their programming
  • Ensuring outreach to the Latinx community was a key component of the newly formed Roaring Fork Valley Wildfire Collaborative
  • Bringing over two dozen members of the local Latinx Community to advocate at the state capital during Latino Advocacy Week

As the Defiende program has grown and evolved, we’ve focused on building deep and authentic relationships with our diverse and varied local Latinx population. One way of achieving this has been the creation of the Defiende Advisory Board, which we formed in 2022. Members of the Board are involved with a cross-section of the Latinx community, understand its social dynamics and interests, and have an interest in conservation and public lands.

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The Defiende Program regularly seeks advice from this Board, utilizing members’ knowledge and experiences on social, economic, environmental, and cultural issues — especially those that are intersectional with public lands. Current Advisory Board Members are Jasmin Ramirez, Roaring Fork School District Board; Brisa Chavez, Garfield County Public Health; Bryan Alvarez-Terrazas, Manaus; Liz Velasco, Colorado State Representative, District 57, and WW board member; Marlon Funez, Glenwood Springs High School; Gabriela Galindez, Aspen Art Museum; and Gladys Arango, city of Glenwood Springs.

Throughout 2023, we’ll be sharing exciting new developments from the Defiende program — returning events, new initiatives and many opportunities to advocate for the protection of public lands and waters! One upcoming opportunity is the McClure Pass Snowshoe on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This is a great chance to walk along the top of McClure Pass in the heart of winter, surrounded by sparkling snow and incredible views.

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During the snowshoe, we’ll talk about how potential Wild and Scenic River designation could protect this beloved drainage as well as the current opportunity to protect the Thompson Divide for the next 20 years with an administrative withdrawal and, most importantly, how to get involved in these community-driven efforts. The snowshoe is a free, guided, and bilingual event. To help us plan, please register on the Wilderness Workshop website (wilderenssworkshop.org, click on Events) or on the Facebook event on the Defiende Nuestra Tierra Facebook page. I hope to see you outside soon! 

To learn more about the Defiende program or get more involved, reach out to Defiende Nuestra Tierra Director Omar Sarabia on WhatsApp, by email (omar@wildernessworkshop.org), or by phone, 970-230-0775. 

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Tags: #Defiende Nuestra Tierra #Omar Sarabia #Wilderness Workshop
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