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.