Working Toward Our Strongest Conservation Movement Yet

By: Asheton Gilbertson
  • Climate striker holding sign "the climate is changing, why aren't we?"

Elections play a big part in shaping our Colorado way of life. But sometimes the most important outcomes of election night are not the number of yes or no votes a candidate or issue receives, but the face-to-face interactions, conversations, and relationships built along the way. 

This year’s elections were some of the closest we’ve ever worked on. They underscore why every door knocked, call made, and ballot returned matters. 

There’s no question that the hard work you put in to organize, advocate, and make your voice heard made a difference. Because of you and the incredible work of our community organizers, our conservation movement is stronger than ever.

Hear what community organizers Rebekah Hernandez, Renée Larrarte, Noé Orgaz, Finangi (Fina) Manganez, and Jared Bynum had to say about the people power, better representation, and lasting impacts we’re working to build with members like you in 2019 and beyond.  

People Power

As a conservation movement, our power lies in our people. While powerful interests are constantly pushing to prioritize profits at the expense of our health and environment, we’re giving Coloradans the tools to fight back. 

People standing in front of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Rebekah (4th from left) and community advocates speak out for clean air.

“When I organize, my job is to be a resource to empower the activists I’m organizing,” said Rebekah. “Every door that I knock, every piece of literature that I pass out, every activist that I speak to is an intentional way to ensure that Colorado communities are the first priority — from the local level all the way to the State Capitol.”

“At the forefront of every issue should be people, not special interests,” she added.

And we agree. That’s why our organizers work so hard to bring community members together, form strong relationships, and identify solutions to our most pressing environmental and social justice issues. 

Four people in an official building

Renée (left) with community advocates at the State Capitol.

“Transformational relationships are one of the most effective ways to build power and put our communities’ needs first,” said Renée. “We have strength in numbers — together we can make a huge difference.” 

For our organizers and grassroots, that means “setting the precedent that government, big or small, functions for the people, and not the other way around,” said Rebekah.

Better Representation

When large groups of people don’t engage in the political process, decisions are often made by narrow, unrepresentative groups and in the interests of wealth and power. But when more people get involved — especially underrepresented groups — leadership and policies better reflect racial and economic diversity.

Noé leads a group of young activists

Noé (standing) leads a group of young activists.

“For too long, underrepresented communities haven’t had a seat at the decision-making table,” said Noé. “Conservation Colorado has recognized the need to bring all people into the conservation conversation.” 

In Colorado, that means recognizing and elevating the voices of Latinx communities who have a large and growing role in our democracy.

“The Latinx community is becoming more and more involved,” said Fina. “We are the future of the conservation movement. It’s more important than ever that the Latinx communities are informed about conservation issues in their neighborhoods, cities, and state.

When our communities are informed, they can take action toward more equitable involvement and leadership in the conservation movement.

Four people stand in front of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Building

Fina (left) and community advocates speak at the CDPHE.

For communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by pollution, inclusion and representation are a crucial component to leading a healthy life. People of color are far more likely to live, work, and recreate near pollution. Their involvement in the conservation movement not only ensures that their voices are heard but that there are leadership opportunities for them to fight for our conservation values.

“Having champions that represent us means that we can win battles for our environment, health, education, and quality of life,” said Fina. “There is no greater satisfaction as an organizer than to see how the Latinx community grows and its leadership grows with it,” she added.

Lasting Impacts

People gather in a kitchen

Jared (4th from left) builds support for local candidates at a community event.

Our organizers know better than anyone that advocacy doesn’t end at the ballot box. We’re organizing on the ground to transform more than just one election into real change for Colorado.

“The work of organizing doesn’t end after the campaign does,” said Jared. “The tools you develop through organizing have a longstanding impact,” he added.

Involvement in elections is just one phase of empowering a community to be politically engaged and make meaningful change. Our organizers will continue to fight for a better future side by side with community members — and that fight outlasts any single issue, race, or election. Its greatest outcome is much bigger.

“All races don’t result in a win,” said Noé, “When a campaign doesn’t go our way, organizing keeps the movement alive. The outcome is always a wealth of knowledge.” 

Young activists strike in the youth climate marchEquipped with a concrete understanding of political processes and the confidence to speak up against injustice, our Colorado community activists will stand their ground and incite meaningful change, in and out of any election cycle.

“Voting isn’t the only way to get engaged,” said Fina. “People can be informed and support our work in a number of ways: they can volunteer, canvass, phone bank, and donate.”

Thank you for supporting our work to shape a stronger, more equitable conservation movement. 

Together, we will continue organizing in local communities throughout our state to protect clean air, water, and open spaces for all who call Colorado home.