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‘It’s up to all of us’: Local advocacy leaders on the path to environmental and climate justice

1 Omar Sarabia Xmas Tree_Wilderness Workshop Defiende.JPG
Courtesy of Defiende Nuestra Tierra
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Wilderness Workshop
Omar Sarabia, right, director of Wilderness Workshop’s program Defiende Nuestra Tierra (Defend Our Land), and community member Axel Contreras attend the group’s recent Christmas tree-cutting event organized in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

Our public lands are at the heart of what makes Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley a unique place, but many people face barriers to enjoying them. At the same time, climate change has arrived — although it’s not impacting everyone equally.

Local advocacy leaders, including Beatriz Soto and Omar Sarabia, are working to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to create more-equitable access to the outdoors.

“It’s a challenge for us to educate and inform the Latino community that public lands are for us as well, and the Latino community doesn’t have enough representation or familiar faces in environmental programs,” said Omar Sarabia, director of Wilderness Workshop’s program Defiende Nuestra Tierra (Defend Our Land). “As the new director, I am trying to be that familiar face.”

2 Xmas Tree Cutting_Wilderness Workshop Defiende.jpg
Courtesy of Defiende Nuestra Tierra
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Wilderness Workshop
Community members show off their newly cut Christmas tree during an event organized by the Latinx-led environmental advocacy program Defiende Nuestra Tierra (Defend Our Land).

Started by local nonprofit Wilderness Workshop in 2018, Defiende Nuestra Tierra is a Latinx-led environmental advocacy program that focuses on protecting and increasing access to public lands.

The program’s previous director, Beatriz Soto, is now the Protégete director at Conservation Colorado. “Protégete” means “Protect yourself,” and the program advocates for equitable access to a healthy environment.

“Environmental justice is intersectional, too, right? Who has access to affordable housing? Who has access to affordable child care and health care?” Soto said. “All of these are intertwined with the amount of time that people can spend outside and participate civically in our democracy, in our community.”

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Courtesy of Defiende Nuestra Tierra
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Wilderness Workshop
Local residents pose with Smokey Bear after getting guidance on how to cut down their own Christmas tree from Wilderness Workshop staff members and U.S. Forest Service rangers.

Aspen Public Radio recently talked with Beatriz Soto and Omar Sarabia about the path to environmental and climate justice.

Listen to the conversation above.

Eleanor is an award-winning journalist and Morning Edition anchor. Eleanor has reported on a wide range of topics in her community, including the impacts of federal immigration policies on local DACA recipients, the Valley’s COVID-19 eviction and housing crisis, and hungry goats fighting climate change across the West through targeted grazing. Connecting with people from all walks of life and creating empathic spaces for them to tell their stories fuels her work.