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Next 100 Colorado Blog!

Juan Pérez Sáez brings climate, conservation, and equity leadership to Next 100 Colorado. He is the Energy and Climate Campaign Manager for The Wilderness Society and a Board Member for Cottonwood Institute. Juan has been engaged with Next 100 Colorado for over two years and is also a Steering Committee member for the National Next 100 Coalition.

How does your job help make Colorado’s outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive? 

Through my work I design and implement advocacy campaigns that drive federal policy change to protect public lands, climate, and western communities. This cannot be accomplished without including traditionally under-served and underrepresented communities. We must recognize and address how systems have been put in place to keep us out of the meeting rooms where decisions are made about our future, and the future of our communities and outdoors spaces.

At TWS, we work towards the mission of “Uniting people to protect America’s wild places”, and when we say people we mean everyone.   How has Next 100 Colorado changed the way you approach your work?

The Next 100 Coalition has immensely influenced the way that I do my work because it offers us a space to be more strategic and work across issues that traditionally are viewed as separate, but that are connected.

Next 100 Colorado provides me with a space to ensure that our home state is doing the best that it can to give a great outdoors experience no matter your immigrant status, the color of your skin, the language that you speak, the person who you love, your ability, or your gender identity, among other underrepresented communities.

We understand that there is much work to be done, but it is incredibly helpful to have a group of leaders in our sector working toward making green spaces and the outdoors a place where we all feel like we belong. What is your favorite outdoor spot in Colorado?

San Juan National Forest. What is your favorite outdoor activity?

Hiking a new trail on a weekday when fewer people are out. There is something about reaching a summit, or passing tree line, and eventually reaching the view of the mountains that makes me feel so connected to the planet and the land.   

Who inspired your career in conservation/the outdoors?

I was inspired to pursue a career in conservation after a Peace Corps volunteer at our middle school took me and a group of students on our first camping trip to a National Park. It was a life changing experience. Seeing wildlife, staring at the trees, and learning about our connection to the land was something that I will never forget.

Understanding the connection between nature and me was something so powerful. If I can spend the rest of my life ensuring that others have access to such an experience, it is priceless, whether we achieve it through protecting the places and people that we love, or making the outdoors more just, diverse, equitable and inclusive.

Andrea Kurth is the Gateway Program Manager for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and has been a member of Next 100 Colorado since February 2019.

How does your job help make Colorado’s outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive? As CDTC's Gateway Community Program Manager, I work to introduce communities in Colorado to the world-class natural resource that goes through their state - the Continental Divide Trail. At CDTC, we believe that ALL people should feel like they belong on the CDT - whether they want to access it for a day hike, spend a weekend backpacking, or attempt a thru-hike from border to border. That's why we provide all kinds of information, maps, and other resources that folks need to discover the trail. We also work to empower CDT stewards through our Gateway Community program. As part of this program, Gateway Communities across Colorado help promote the CDT as a recreational resource to that community's residents as well as visitors. In many of our Gateway Communities, this presents a unique opportunity to reach folks that aren't included in the dominant narrative of recreation or conservation. It's my hope that one day all residents of Colorado will know about the CDT and feel empowered to access it, no matter their background, race, ethnicity, or ability. How has Next 100 Colorado changed the way you approach your work? Next 100 Colorado has connected me with an amazing group of other individuals and organizations in the state who are working on outdoor equity. Being a part of Next 100 Colorado made it easier to introduce more folks to the Trail through collaborative outreach initiatives with other members. Participating in group calls and projects also puts issues of access and equity to the outdoors top of mind and has opened my eyes to possible solutions that I can be a part of through my work at CDTC.

What is your favorite outdoor spot in Colorado?

Mesa Verde - officially my favorite National Park! The preservation of the cliff dwellings is truly remarkable. I loved imagining people climbing in and out of their homes on a daily basis, and I kind of wish I had to complete a similar physical feat to get into my own home! Every Coloradan looking to gain more insight about the stories and histories of the lands where we live should absolutely pay a visit. What is your favorite outdoor activity?

Lying in a hammock and reading a book. Who inspired your career in conservation/the outdoors? I'm inspired every day by other leaders of color - many of whom are not recognized or compensated for their work - who are advancing equity in the outdoors and making the conservation movement more inclusive. It's my job to use my privilege and the platform I've been given to help amplify the voices of others and advance this work in whatever way is available to me.

This week's Member Spotlight features Jessica Godinez, a social equity advocate, outdoor lover, and Conservation Program Associate at Hispanic Access Foundation.

How does your job help make Colorado’s outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive?

Hispanic Access seeks to make outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive through a few of our initiatives. In the Conservation Program, we host multiple outdoor outings with communities across the country throughout the year, and in particular, during Latino Conservation Week and Hispanic Heritage Month. Latino Conservation Week was created to support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources and has grown significantly to be more intersectional and visible amongst our community and partners. Further, we host multiple opportunities throughout the year for our community to be directly engaged in advocacy and policy – through trainings, DC fly-ins, and educational resources, like our Congressional Conservation Toolkit. We also work to build workforce diversity through our MANO Intern Program (My Access to Network Opportunities) which has partnerships with federal land management agencies across the country to place interns in jobs and internships that can create a pipeline to permanent jobs with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and others. In all programs and initiatives, our mission is to establish bridges of access that provide a path for the development and rise of Latino leaders and to elevate those voices in areas where they are underrepresented.

How has Next 100 Colorado changed the way you approach your work?

Being a part of Next 100 Colorado teaches me to approach my work, both professional and personal, with a wider perspective of the problems and solutions associated with this work. The people that make up Next 100 Colorado often offer opinions and viewpoints that challenge what we’re used to seeing in the conservation and outdoors world, which is refreshing and inspiring to me as someone who is still just beginning the journey in working in JEDI conservation efforts. This network has also been an example of how to approach this work while embracing cultural differences and being comfortable doing so, and I’m grateful to be a part of this empowering group.

What is your favorite outdoor spot in Colorado?

As a climber, I love Boulder Canyon for sunny and chill crag days over the summer, but Mt. Evans (whose name will hopefully be re-named soon) holds a special place in my heart. I first moved to Colorado a little over 2 years ago for an internship with the U.S. Forest Service (through Hispanic Access’ MANO program), during which I got to spend my summer as an Interpretative Field Ranger on Mt. Evans. It was my first experience in the alpine and I got to explore and learn so much about the wildlife, its history, and its beauty during my time there.

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

I’m always down for a hike and love camping, but camp/climb trips are my absolute favorite!

Who inspired your career in conservation/the outdoors?

Many others have inspired my career, but my love for conservation and the outdoors definitely comes from my mom and her mom, my abuela. They’ve both taught me from a young age to appreciate our natural world and to care for it. Their lessons weren’t directly about conservation, but the love and appreciation started there, in the garden with my mom.

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