LIVE OAK COUNTY, TEXAS – Helping to restore wildlife habitat restoration and strengthen the quality of life for local animals and humans in a meaningful way, Defenders of Wildlife and Latino Outdoors organized a community event to clear waterfront habitat of refuse and familiarize residents with the rich biodiversity of South Texas.
“By participating in the cleanup for wildlife, we get to see what kinds of items are left behind that pose a danger to the environment,” said Azalia Rodriguez, Defenders’ Texas representative and Latino Conservation Week organizer. “It helps build a conscious reminder to practice the No. 1 rule in outdoor recreation, ‘Leave no trace,’ and to safely pick up trash, even if you didn’t leave it behind.”
During Latino Conservation Week this past July, San Antonio and Austin residents participated in a similar community habitat restoration project that cleared more than 200 pounds of litter from one site of the 75-acre wetland system at Choke Canyon State Park.
Litter degrades the quality of habitats and overall life for animals as they commonly mistake inedible waste for food when hunting and accidentally ingest trash. This can cause obstructions in the lungs or stomachs of animals that are then at-risk of choking or starving to death.
The park’s 26,000 acres are home to javelina pigs, various species of birds and coyotes. Its waters are also home to the westernmost population of American alligator.
“The presence of this ancient alligator species is an indicator of the health of the entire ecosystem,” Rodriguez said. “Alligators are some of the best moms in the wild and go to great lengths to protect their hatchlings, but they can’t protect against a trashed ecosystem.”
Over the years, Latino Conservation Week has helped to emphasize the Latino and Indigenous voice and love for the outdoors. Latino and Indigenous voices are crucial to protect the environment and its natural resources. However, many communities of color are disproportionately affected by pollution, climate change and excluded from the conversation.
Community restoration projects are a great way to invite everyone to the table.
Latino Conservation Week
Each July, Latino Conservation Week encourages Latino communities to get outdoors through activities that protect our natural resources. Latino Conservation Week was created in 2014 by the Hispanic Access Foundation, with only nine events. Today it has grown to hundreds of events across the nation.
Shockingly there were only 14 Latino Conservation Week events in Texas this year, despite the Lone Star state having about 12 million Latino residents.
The Latino population in the U.S. is more than 62 million. That number is expected to grow to one-third of the population by 2050. However, a recent report found that less than 12% of Latinos participated in outdoor recreation activities.