The Changing Dynamic of Latinx Outdoor Recreation on National and State Public Lands
Keywords:Latinx, outdoor recreation, race, ethnicity, public land
The Latinx population is the largest growing minority population in the United States and is estimated to comprise 28% of the U.S. population by 2050. This continued growth is no longer due to foreign-born immigration, which accounted for 34% of all Latinx people in 2015, but rather to those born in the U.S., who comprised 66% of all Latinxs that year. Therefore, the current and future Latinx population consists of second-, third-, and fourth-generation Americans who report being fluent in English and Spanish, have higher levels of education, and earn higher incomes. As the Latinx population becomes larger and more complex, their outdoor recreation preferences and perceptions are also changing. Our survey findings reveal three significant ways that this is happening. First, Latinxs are expanding their recreation activities beyond day-use activities to engage in overnight backpacking and camping—activities that enable participants to explore a broader array of forests and natural resources. Second, despite earlier research that found significant gaps in environmental awareness among “Hispanics,” recent polling data and this study show that today’s Latinxs overwhelmingly support protecting public lands. Third, while prior research identified overt racial discrimination as a significant barrier to public land use, our findings show that the Latinx population feels welcome on federal and state public lands. Staff and other visitors are generally perceived to be friendly, which suggests a shift in a Latinx sense of belonging when visiting national forests and parks. Nonetheless, there continue to be institutional barriers and low visitation rates to public lands amongst racial and ethnic minorities. Future research on Latinx outdoor recreation on public lands could examine how new generations draw meaning from their outdoor experiences and how they are combining traditional cultural traits with more diverse and active outdoor recreation activities.
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