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Latin roots help Forest Service employee grow interest in natural resources among young people

A photo of Fabian Garcia and Kids.
Fabian Garcia, seated fifth from left, represents the U.S. Forest
Service with the Southern California Consortium, which
encourages young people to consider careers in natural resources,
higher education and employment.

Fabian Garcia, a Forest Service employee for eight years, intimately understands the connection between nature and nurture.

As a young Latino growing up in an agricultural community in central California, Garcia’s world revolved around the outdoors. When he, his parents and three siblings were not working, they were fishing in nearby lakes and streams, exploring giant sequoias that towered over forests or traveled just to play in the snow.

Today, Garcia, who is now 31, works with high school students in Los Angeles as director
of the Southern California Consortium, the Forest Service conduit that helps young people connect to nature. His job has helped him to understand how his childhood connection to nature gave him peace of mind.

The Southern California Consortium is an environmental education, outreach and recruitment program that encourages young people to consider careers in natural resources, higher education and employment. It’s not always an easy sell when talking with young people who have never ventured into the woods.

“I tell young people, ‘Realize that you are nature.’ In other words, we’re not separate from it. It’s not foreign to us,” he said. “We should get to know ourselves a lot better, and the best way to do that is to surround ourselves with nature so that it gives us time to find ourselves and build peace within ourselves.”
The connection to nature is especially low for young Latinos. Statistically, Latinos now make up 23 percent of the under-18 population in the United States yet only 5.8 percent
of youth who participate in outdoor recreation are Hispanic, according a report by The Outdoor Foundation.

The report also states that while leisure time increased in recent years, statistically compared to other ethnicities, the Hispanic segment ranks amongst the lowest in total leisure time available. While 89 percent of Hispanics find outdoor activities fun and 82 percent believe outdoor activities are healthy, 71 percent of males and 64 percent of female Hispanics report that they do not participate in outdoor activities due to lack of time, according to the report.

A photo of Fabian GarciaNaturally, the Forest Service is concerned about those numbers, especially given that most Americans live within 200 miles of a national forest or grassland. To help bridge that gap, the Forest Service and the Advertising Council recently launched a Descubre el Bosque public service advertising campaign aimed to help Latinos develop a love of nature and understand their role in protecting it. The campaign includes Spanish-language print, radio and television ads that depict a Latino family exploring the outdoors.

As a child, Garcia and his family planted a variety of plants and trees around their home that would produce meals for the family. He said he grew up with “a lot of natural wealth.” That’s the treasure he works to bring to the student in Los Angeles.

The consortium works with six L.A.-area high schools and organizations in San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Each fall, 36 students help the Forest Service and other agencies at the Los Angeles County Fair, talking to fair goers about natural resources. Each summer, 18 young people head to the Angeles National Forest, which is just two hours from Los Angeles, to work on trails, learn first-hand about natural resources and, for many, experience silence.

The first two days in the woods for the Los Angeles kids sometimes takes some adjustment.

“They are a little freaked out at the silence,” Garcia said smiling. “Then they see wildlife jumping about and they shout, “Oh, my, what is that? Will that attack me?’ You look over, and it’s a deer. It’s intimidating to go to a new place. But the experience they have will stay with them for a lifetime, and no one will ever be able to take that from them.”


Related Content:

Ad Council video:Descubre el Bosque



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US Forest Service
Last modified March 29, 2013

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