Written by Beatriz Soto, Latino Outreach Coordinator

This year, Wilderness Workshop launched a new outreach program, Defiende Nuestra Tierra (“Defiende” for short). Through this program, we have joined a collective effort to create an organization and an environmental movement that is diverse, inclusive and always looking towards the future. Defiende has had significant success in its outreach efforts towards community integration and union, always with its driving focus on public lands awareness and education.

Both the Forest Service and the BLM have collaborated with us on bilingual hikes specifically focused on the Latino/a population. Other nonprofit organizations, valley businesses and local governments are also enthusiastic about collaborating. Growing excitement and momentum around Defiende is proof that the program is needed now more than ever. Some of the highlights from this past year included an initial community celebration and BBQ in Glenwood’s Sayre Park in June, several bilingual hikes, and extensive collaboration with Latino community leaders. Most importantly, we’re meeting with, listening to and engaging with members of the Latino community with whom we share this beautiful landscape to provide them with the tools and knowledge to be stewards of the land.

Thanks to the exciting and satisfying journey of the Defiende program, we have had the opportunity to join some of our Latino and Spanish speaking neighbors on local public lands. On our bilingual hikes, we were joined by Latino boys and girls, younger and older community members, entire families, stay-at-homes moms not accustomed to outdoor recreation due to intimidation or cultural barriers. Rewardingly, the groups on these hikes were often racially and ethnically diverse. We have created a safe space where people who love the outdoors can meet and connect, while sharing in our beautiful natural landscapes and learning more about public lands issues.

Wilderness Workshop is thrilled to engage with people whom we would have probably never met previously, but with whom we have surely crossed paths at the grocery store, gas station, school and other community events. Where we previously did not have the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange dialogue, public lands
creates common interests to share among new friends. Our strength as a community comes from our union; the more inclusive we are, with different points of view and diverse contributions, the greater capacity we’ll have to protect our public lands and the environment.

We will continue our efforts to give a voice to all people around public land issues, no matter their cultural background, language, race, age, political affiliation, gender identity or any other defining characteristic. We have an engaging roster of adventures planned for 2019, and we hope to see you there! To learn more, visit www.wildernessworkshop.org/defendour-land-defiende-nuestra-tierra/