Hispanic Heritage Month begins this week and runs through mid-October, and conservation groups are encouraging people to celebrate by getting the family out to enjoy our public lands.
In Southern California, for example, Hispanic Access Foundation is sponsoring a stargazing event in Frazier Park for Hispanic pastors on Sept. 30.
Juan Rosas, conservation program associate for the foundation, wants to dispel the myth Hispanics do not value public lands.
"To be able to enjoy God's creation is really important to our people," Rosas explained. "What a great way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and getting people to the great outdoors and bringing awareness to the great need here in California."
The stargazing event is intended to promote the PUBLIC Lands Act, which would protect 1.5 million acres of land in California. It passed the U.S. House, but has stalled in the Senate.
Census data show 39% of Californians are Latino, making it the largest ethnic group in the state. The population grew by 1.6 million people or more than 11%, between 2010 and 2020, which accounted for more than two-thirds of the state's total population increase.
Rosas noted California has many stunning state and national parks, but low-income families have a hard time getting there because they are often far from urban areas, and public transportation is spotty.
"In our beautiful state, we do have Joshua Tree, we have Big Bear, we have all these beautiful beaches, if you have a good car," Rosas pointed out. "But most of us are living in neighborhoods that are very nature-deprived."
Nationally, Latinos make up 18.5% of the population and are expected to hit 24% by 2065.