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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Celebrating our Nation’s Hispanic Heritage

   Ariel Martinez Through a partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, Ariel Martinez served as an intern at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge connecting youth with nature.  Photo by USFWS

By Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan

Having settled in North America more than 500 years ago, Hispanics have had a profound influence on our nation’s history, culture and relationship with the land.

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates that rich heritage, while also looking to the future.  The theme for this year’s national celebration is “Shaping the Bright Future of America.”

For the Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s fitting that we mark National Hispanic Heritage Month at National Wildlife Refuges, National Fish Hatcheries and other field stations across the nation. That’s because our mission is increasingly intertwined with the Hispanic American community, which supports public lands, wildlife, and conservation, and continues to grow and expand its leadership role across American society.

Recognizing that Hispanic Americans will help shape the future of conservation, we’re supporting programs that connect Hispanic Americans with public lands and their heritage. In addition, we’re working to enable Hispanic American youth to explore careers in wildlife conservation and to recruit recent graduates and young professionals from the community. Our goal is to create a professional workforce that reflects our nation’s growing diversity and can inspire and engage Americans from all walks of life. 

   Ariel Martinez
Ariel Martinez. Photo by USFWS  

To achieve these critically important goals, the Service is working with national Hispanic-serving organizations. In 2015 we joined into a partnership with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to increase awareness of the recreational and career opportunities the Service offers to Hispanic communities across the nation. Recently, we partnered with the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) to support Latino Conservation Week (LCW).  LCW was established by HAF to recognize and encourage Hispanic participation in outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation.

In support of LCW, we placed Hispanic American youth in summer internships at 10 national wildlife refuges in the Northeast region.  Among other duties, the interns were responsible for helping invite, welcome, and engage Hispanic Americans on public lands.

One of the interns working at a refuge this summer is Ariel Martinez from Hamden, Connecticut.  Ariel, a junior at Smith College studying environmental science and policy, was assigned to Iroquois Natural Wildlife Refuge in New York.

Through community partnerships, Ariel engaged approximately 150 Hispanic and other youth in age-appropriate environmental education.  In addition to providing educational opportunities, Ariel served as a role model for other Hispanic American youth. 

   Ariel Martinez Ariel Martinez teaches environmental education. Photo by USFWS

Through her efforts, Ariel is helping develop the next generation of conservationists – young people who will ensure that we continue to fulfill our mission to work with others to conserve wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of all Americans.

This month, we invite Americans of all backgrounds to celebrate the contributions of Hispanics Americans to our nation’s rich cultural diversity – and to explore the great outdoors with family and friends.  Together, we can ensure the future of our shared natural heritage for generations to come.

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