A Talk on the Wild Side.
By Jim Kurth, Acting FWS Director
Hispanic and Latino roots in our nation run deep – predating the founding of the United States by centuries. And this rich, vibrant culture has shaped and influenced what it means to be American in myriad ways.
From the food we eat, the music we listen to, and our art, literature and language, every part of American culture is influenced by Hispanic and Latino Americans. Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated in the United States from September 15 to October 15, serves to remind us of the many contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to our nation over the centuries.
This includes the earliest Western settlement in North America at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, as well as the founding of cities across the Southwest and into California by Spanish settlers. And it continues up to now, with Hispanic and Latino Americans becoming one of our fastest-growing ethnic groups.
According to the Census Bureau, Latinos currently comprise more than 18 percent of the U.S. population – and in states like California, New Mexico, and Texas, more than 40 percent of the state populations. Projecting into the future, by 2045, the U.S. population will be 25 percent Latino.
Recognizing this cultural and demographic shift, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working hard to engage Hispanic Americans and help them connect with their natural heritage. Research shows that support for wildlife, public lands and conservation is higher among Hispanic Americans than among any other ethnic group in the nation.
We’re also working to help Hispanic American children explore careers in wildlife conservation – and to recruit young adults from the community to join the Service. Our goal is to create a professional workforce for the future that reflects our nation’s growing diversity and can inspire and engage Americans from all walks of life.
To achieve these critically important goals, the Service is working with national Hispanic-serving organizations. For example, we partnered with the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) to support Latino Conservation Week (LCW) through communications efforts, but by also placing HAF interns at National Wildlife Refuges across the country. LCW was established by HAF to recognize and encourage Hispanic participation in outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation.
This month, we invite Americans of all backgrounds to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic 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.