Strengthening Communities and Broadening the Conservation Base
Photography:
  • Pelican Media

Strengthening Communities and Broadening the Conservation Base

As it is in many areas of the United States, the demographic makeup of California is changing rapidly. Current projections indicate that people of Latino heritage will account for 43 percent of the state’s population by 2020 and 52 percent by 2040. But California’s conservation community and its priorities do not reflect the state’s changing population. And many areas with large Latino populations lack access to safe, clean parks and outdoor recreation.

RLF is working with three philanthropic partners—the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation—to cultivate a more diverse conservation community and connect underserved urban populations with nature. The program we developed and implemented engages urban youth and adjacent communities in protecting and shaping the future of river parkways in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

In Modesto—the San Joaquin Valley’s fourth-largest city, whose population will be 70 percent Latino by 2050—we are building a diverse constituency dedicated to protecting the Tuolumne River, which runs through the city’s Latino neighborhoods. With partners that include the Tuolumne River Trust and the volunteer-based Hispanic Leadership Council, we have launched science-based educational programs for grade-schoolers and organized outdoor activities for teenagers. We also launched programs that engage hundreds of students at 18 area high schools in leadership, learning, and community service projects.

Similar efforts customized for the San Joaquin River in Fresno, the Los Angeles River, and the Otay River in San Diego are building support for river parkways in underserved communities, developing a new generation of conservation leaders, and expanding public investment in protecting and restoring rivers.

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