Famous for its coastline, Los Angeles residents are more familiar with its sandy beaches than the granite canyons and cool creeks of the Angeles National Forest. The forest serves as a refuge, somewhere we can escape the chaos of city life and take a break from the demands of the modern world. Finding ways to ensure that all communities have welcoming, equitable, and inclusive experiences outdoors is more important than ever.
That is why campaigns such as National Forest Week (NFW) and Latino Conservation Week (LCW) aim to highlight and promote responsible recreation on our public lands. Here in Southern California, these campaigns intersect in many ways other than just on the calendar. National Forest Week took place July 11th- 17th, and Latino Conservation Week right after from July 16th – 23rd giving us a two-week-long celebration of public lands!
National Forest Week
Everyone has their own special somewhere, a park, forest, or trail where they can enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer. National Forest Week is an opportunity to celebrate your favorite destination within the 193 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands across the country. National Forests are considered working lands, which means that aside from providing recreation opportunities to the public, they also provide water to millions of Americans in thousands of communities, clean our air, store carbon, and provide timber, minerals, oil and gas, and other resources for industries and communities. This year, the official theme for National Forest Week is “See Your Somewhere,” an invitation to the public to find their somewhere in our National Forest and Grasslands.
Celebrating at REI
The Southern California team kicked off NFW celebrations by engaging the public at the REI store in Tustin, CA. REI is one of the NFF’s longtime leading partners. Thanks to REI’s support, we had the opportunity to speak to customers about our reforestation work, tested their knowledge of local National Forests, and gave out prizes.
Las Montañas Festival
Las Montañas, a festival hosted by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, set the stage for the NFF to double up and celebrate National Forest Week and Latino Conservation Week on the same day! The festival featured guided hikes, Latinx biologists highlighting their research in conservation, and seed bomb piñata workshops. NFF invited Recreation Technicians from the Angeles National Forest to educate attendees on recreation opportunities in the mountains across the valley. While the Santa Monica Mountains are not part of the National Forest System, it is the second largest open space in the Los Angeles region with 500 miles of trails and 40 miles of beaches.
Latino Conservation week
Latino Conservation Week (LCW) is an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation created in 2014 to support Latino communities getting outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources. LCW has four main goals:
- Provide Latino families and youth with outdoor recreation opportunities near their homes.
- Demonstrate the Latino community’s commitment to conservation.
- Partner with Hispanic community Leaders and organizations to support local and national conservation issues.
- Inform policymakers, media, and the public of the Latino community’s views on important local and national conservation issues.
This year the National Forest Foundation was invited to participate in Fiesta y Communidad, an event organized by the Nature for All Coalition and Latino Outdoors (LO). The event was a celebration of the work being done across Los Angeles County to educate and provide resources to communities that lack access to greenspaces. There was food, music, and dancing as we gathered in Los Angeles State Historic Park on a sunny summer day.
As part of their ongoing All Aboard for Nature program, Nature for All provided free transportation to their celebration, proving once again their commitment to increase access to nature in everything they do. All Aboard for Nature is a transit to trails project to improve outdoor access through public transportation. Transportation is one of the many barriers that prevent equitable access to nature. The program provides hundreds of community members free transportation to local natural areas such as Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, White Point Beach, Los Angeles State Historic Park, and many more!
Latino Outdoors’ values of “cultura y familia” (culture and family) were on full display as members of the public shared ‘helados’ while having discussions on reforestation and the best local hikes. Founded in 2014, Latino Outdoors has grown to become a national movement powered by volunteer chapters all over the country. The local chapter, LO Los Angeles, organizes hikes guided by volunteers dedicated to making nature a safer and more inclusive place for the Latine community. This celebration was a continuation of that mission. Latine professionals educated and shared resources on all aspects of conservation, highlighting the splendid work that local professionals are doing within their own community.
It was an amazing day, bursting with information and joy. Making space to acknowledge and celebrate our wins as a community has never been more important.