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Planting the Seeds for the Trees I May Never Sit Under, But Future Generations Will Enjoy

As a child, I cherished spending time outdoors. I fondly remember playing in the water and creating mud holes in my grandmother’s garden. In the summers, my sister and I would visit my grandparents in Alamosa, Colorado for a couple weeks. I always looked forward to trout fishing with my grandparents, and my sister and I would have friendly competitions to see who could catch the most or the biggest fish.

I love thinking back to those great memories.

My ancestors migrated to the United States from Spain in the late 1500s, settling in New Mexico and contributing to establishing cities such as Albuquerque. In the 1800’s they settled in what is now called Colorado, where my family has resided ever since. I am grateful to call this beautiful place my home; my roots are firmly planted in the San Luis Valley. Being a fifth-generation Coloradan who was born in the valley, my family has a background in farming, ranching, and teaching. Consequently, I have always felt at home in the great outdoors. During summers, my family would take me camping and hiking, which I always looked forward to. Additionally, I occasionally assisted my aunt and uncle in moving their cattle and sheep to the mountains for summer grazing. As a child, and young adult, I had a deep desire to be a cowboy.

As I grew older, I had the chance to work with the Forest Service as a Wild Land Firefighter, spending my days in the great outdoors. This experience strengthened my bond with nature and fueled my desire to safeguard it further. Presently, I serve as the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. In my current capacity, I am a bridge builder for smaller non-governmental organizations primarily focused on serving underrepresented and underserved communities. My goal is to elevate their voices and stories, particularly within the Hispanic and Latino communities, with large conservation NGOs and policy makers.

Living in San Luis Valley, where the annual rainfall amounts to seven inches or more, has helped me recognize the value of water. Having grown up near the Rio Grande Rivers, which flow through the valley, I have developed a deep connection with this precious resource. We must use water wisely in light of climate change and impending droughts. The Colorado River, which originates in the Colorado mountains, provides water for 40 million people across seven states and two countries, and we must ensure we do not waste it. My connection to water has guided me throughout my career and motivated me to contribute to various conservation efforts. Much of my work has been focused on the environment and human and animal health and learning how they’re interconnected. I strongly believe that spending more time outdoors helps us to be our most authentic selves an creates a desire in us all to conserve these natural spaces and resources we love.

The planet is a fragile ecosystem, and it needs our protection.

Nowadays, I love to go hiking, biking, and taking my dog for walks. Recently, my wife and I picked up a new hobby of paddle boarding, and it has been an excellent experience for us to learn. While I enjoy trying out new activities, I also partake in some of my favorite childhood pastimes, such as hunting and fishing. I am excited to share the joys of upland bird hunting and fly fishing with my nephew this year and spend time outdoors during Latino Conservation Week.

As a Latino, it’s a common misconception that the outdoors is this new space for us. However, we’ve been utilizing these resources for generations. We’ve always hiked, fished, and camped. We just haven’t been part of mainstream conservation narrative or groups, but now it’s crucial for us to become more present, especially as the demographics of the United States are changing. Currently, Hispanic and Latino children make up more than 50% of those 18 years old and younger. It’s essential to teach our children about the availability of these resources and the importance of protecting them.

We have to take care of this planet that we all call home.

The Latino voice amongst others, has been missing from the conservation spectrum, and we want to ensure we’re involved in the decision-making moving forward. We all share the goal of clean air, clean water, and healthy spaces that we can all thrive in. Our voices need to be heard so that we can contribute our unique perspectives and concerns. Even though my family has always enjoyed hunting and fishing, we never considered ourselves conservationists, but unquestionably, we are. Moving forward, we must focus on inclusive language and make sure everyone is at the table.

During Latino Conservation Week, I urge everyone to go outdoors, bring someone new along, and introduce them to the wonders of nature. Discover the importance of being involved in conservation efforts. Let’s all do our part to conserve the environment.

I live my life with the seven-generation principle in mind and ensure that the decisions I’m making or advocating for will be for our future generations. It’s important to me that I plant the seeds for trees that I may never sit under but that future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate the shade they provide.

Click HERE for the full story by Jared Romero, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership on the HECHO website.