Natural Leaders Network to host BUILDING THE NEXT GENERATION OF DIVERSE NATURE-SMART LEADERS congressional briefing on June 24

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Timed with Great Outdoors America Week, the Briefing will highlight the Role of Latino Youth in the Future of Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Movements

The Natural Leaders Network, a program of the Children & Nature Network, along with the office of Senator Patty Murray, will host a Congressional briefing, “Building the Next Generation of Diverse Nature-Smart Leaders,” during Great Outdoors America Week (GO Week) on June 24 from 12-1:30pm in room SD-562 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. (To follow conversations on Twitter, please use #NaturalLeaders and #goamerica.)

In partnership with, and featuring panelists from The REI Foundation, The Hispanic Access Foundation, The Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies, and The Wilderness Society, leaders will discuss strategic ways to promote outdoor recreation and conservation among Latino youth, including: informative updates on existing legislation, and programs designed to drive maximum awareness of the outdoors and public lands among diverse audiences. The briefing is designed to address existing challenges and opportunities facing the conservation community while directing attention to the lack of diversity of park users and outdoor enthusiasts.

As the largest and fastest growing demographic group in the country, trends indicate a growing opportunity for Latinos to become involved in conservation and outdoor recreation challenges. For instance, in this year’s 2014 Outdoor Recreation Topline Participation Report, authored by the Outdoor Foundation, young outdoor enthusiasts were slightly more diverse in 2013 than they were in 2012, thanks to increased Hispanic participation. In fact, Hispanic participation increased from eight percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2013.

This sentiment was forecasted by a National Council of La Raza study in 2012, “Latinos and the Environment,” indicating that more than nine in 10 Latino voters (94 percent) say outdoor activities such as fishing, picnics, camping, and visiting national parks and monuments are important to them and their families.

“Across the outdoor industry, we sense that generation by generation fewer people spend meaningful time outside enjoying nature,” said Marc Berejka, REI’s director of government and community affairs and president of The REI Foundation. “Programs like the Natural Leaders Network are inspiring and informing new audiences by equipping them with the necessary resources to be active outdoor participants.”

However, major challenges still exist, including the urbanization of our population, which is creating new challenges such as “nature-deficit disorder,” the growing disconnect between people and nature, and contributing to the obesity epidemic in the U.S. where 31 percent of adults are obese and 15 percent of children and teenagers age six-19 are overweight.

“Engaging the Latino community is key to closing the diversity gap in the conservation and outdoor recreation fields,” said Juan Martinez, Director of the Natural Leaders Network. “Creating culturally-relevant programs and initiatives that equip youth with valuable skills is imperative to ensuring a vibrant future of ‘nature-smart’ leaders,” he said.

Ray Rivera, Board Member of the Children and Nature Network, and former Obama Administration appointee, will serve as the moderator for the briefing, featuring remarks from the Honorable Ben Ray Luján, United States Representative for New Mexico. Luján has consistently demonstrated active leadership in conservation, outdoor recreation and Latino leadership issues.

“Our nation is blessed with majestic lands that have inspired generations of Americans,” said Congressman Ben Ray Luján. “In my home state of New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment – enjoying the great outdoors is a part of our life and our culture, but in many communities, this is not the case. That is why efforts to highlight all that the great outdoors has to offer, particularly in the growing Hispanic community, is so important.”

The goal of GO Week is to raise awareness around outdoor issues, and will bring together hundreds of diverse organizations and activists to meet with lawmakers and administrators to advocate for the outdoors and the outdoor way of life.

About The Children and Nature Network:
Since it’s founding in 2006, the Children & Nature Network has been advocating for children, their families and communities to enhance their health and well being through direct experiences in nature. C&NN’s vision is a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives. The Children & Nature Network is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. C&NN provides a wide range of research and user-friendly tools, including those to enhance positive family bonding and access to fun, friendly nature-based activities. For more information, visit

About GO Week

Great Outdoors America Week (GO Week) is the preeminent event celebrating our collective connection to the great outdoors while advocating for its future. As one of the largest annual conservation and outdoor focused events in Washington DC, GO Week raises awareness around outdoors issues, brings together hundreds of diverse organizations and activists to meet with lawmakers and administrators to advocate for our outdoor way-of-life. For more information, visit

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Juan Martinez
since: 03/2009
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