Today, seven Latino college students embark on a nine-day tour of national parks in the west as they seek to engage Latinos with the outdoors and raise awareness about the need to protect these treasures from oil and gas development. The youth will visit six national parks in three states and will share their experiences through social media and video blogs (#4Stops1Destination).

“This campaign introduces Latinos to new destinations and shows them how accessible, enjoyable and good for your health these places can be,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation, which is sponsoring the trip. “The engagement of Latinos, and especially Latino youth, is critical to the long-term protection and preservation of these locations for future generations.”

HAF hopes increased attendance and awareness about threats to these national treasures, such as oil and gas development, air pollution and water shortage will encourage Latinos to take an active role in protecting these natural wonders for future generations.

“We’re looking to put conservation on equal ground with oil and gas drilling,” said Arce. “If we don’t have a balanced approach to energy development, future generations will not be able to enjoy the beauty of these parks as they stand today. And it will be that much more difficult to attract Latinos, and other communities for that matter, to these parks.”

Nationally, Latinos represent only 9 percent of the annual visitors to our national parks each year, according to estimates from the American Latino Heritage Fund. While reasons vary, HAF has found that awareness is one of the biggest barriers to entry.

“Latinos are extremely passionate about their local parks, but we need to translate that enthusiasm to our national park system. By bringing more families into the parks, we’re working to secure these destinations for the future,” said Arce. “While more visitors equates to more park funds, there’s more to it than just the numbers. With Latinos, their passion for the outdoors underscores the roles they can play in the preservation of these natural landmarks.”

This trip is the second of the “Four Stops, One Destination” project. The seven college students making the trip are:

Luke Miguel Argleben, 19, from Christopher Newport University (@lifeisguac)
Lesly Caballero, 21, from Humboldt State University (@leslyoutdoors)
Joe Camacho, Jr., 22, from University of Washington (@joe_camacho44)
Roger Espinoza, 23 from Western State Colorado University (@speedster900)
Adrian Hernandez, 19, from Santa Ana Community College (@AdrainAh)
Jessica Loya, 21, from University of California, Santa Cruz (@ jloks32)
Zoraida Martinez, 23, from University of California, Riverside (@zoey_mrtnz)

Covering 1,400 miles, the trip includes stops at Rocky Mountain National Park (July 12) in Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument (July 13) in Colorado, Arches National Park (July 15) in Utah, Mesa Verde National Park (July 16) in Colorado, Chaco Culture National Park (July 17) in New Mexico, and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (July 18) in Colorado.