Charting a Path to an Environmental Justice Future in Western States

The West is a place of contrasts. Vast, wild open spaces situated next to densely populated cities, complemented by Native lands like the Navajo Nation and many more. These elements create a rich fabric of diversity, cultural history and environmental stewardship. However, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant climate change crisis, we continue to witness the environmental disparities that exist and prevail amongst underserved populations such as Tribal nations as well as Black and LatinX communities. Lack of clean water, polluted air, access to health care and credible information have shown a spotlight on the troubling inequities in our system.

Through the Southwest Environmental Justice and Frontline Community Roundtable, hosted by the National Wildlife Federation, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) and national and local partners, Tribal, LatinX, and Black elected and local leaders from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah met virtually to discuss how they are stewarding their communities through these multiple crises. 

Click on the videos below to hear from some of the region’s leaders to learn how federal action can begin to address environmental inequities like access to clean air and water. Healthy habitats depend on healthy communities, proving that wildlife conservation and environmental justice are two powerful and intertwined elements of the broader environmental movement.

U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.)

As a congressman, Representative Ruben Gallego has represented the people of the Arizona 7th congressional district for nearly six years. Learn how his commitment to prioritizing the health of essential workers and the families in his community aided in developing a plan for a healthier, more equitable future. 

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Nizhooni Hurd

An Assistant Urban Ranger Coordinator for Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), Nizhooni Hurd is a fighting force for youth leadership and environmental education in Denver, Colorado. Through her heritage and culture as a Native and Black woman, Nizhooni is bringing awareness to inequities surrounding access to basic needs and opportunities in her community and beyond. Because,“if our most under-resourced people’s needs aren’t met first, then we can’t show up for environmental anything.”

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Taishya Adams

Taishya Adams is the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioner and co-lead for Outdoor Afro, a national organization that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature. In divisive and uncertain times, Taishya calls for us all to collectively recognize everyone’s story, their cultural history and advocate for the inclusion of others in the outdoors, “so we have got to raise our voice, raise a flag and either step up, step aside or step down.”

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Collinus Newsome

Collinus Newsome is the senior program officer with the Colorado Health Foundation and a trusted leader in education where she works to build diverse, welcoming spaces for all students. Listen in to her stance on the need for more grassroots organization, investments in communities of Color and upliftment of leaders. 

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Assemblywoman Selena Torres (Nev.)

Assemblywoman Selena Torres represents District 3 in the heart of Southern Nevada and is a fierce advocate and partner for her constituents. In addition to implementing a grocery delivery service to more than 1,000 local families, Torres sheds light on the need for critical information to be translated quickly and accurately as a means to keeping her community informed and safe in times of crisis. Learn more about how she’s making an impact in her district. 

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How can you get involved?

Help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter about these policy issues and solutions that can help create healthy communities in the Southeast and across the country.

And learn who your Congressional and state leaders are, so you can advocate for equitable, environmental solutions!