Metro Portland

Latino Community Engages in Conservation

Hood River and Columbia Riverkeeper

The Columbia River Gorge serves as an important natural resource for many Oregonians—offering a place for cultural preservation for tribal nations, nourishment through its wide variety of fish, and recreational activities like boating, swimming and windsurfing that support local economies.

The Gorge’s ecosystem is also a place where curious students and ecologists alike can learn about ways to protect and enhance their natural environment.

However, many Oregon residents, including underserved populations, don’t have the opportunity or resources to enjoy the Gorge—or to help preserve it. To bridge this gap, the nonprofit Columbia Riverkeeper stepped in to reduce financial and logistical barriers to enjoying the Gorge and to increase opportunities for communities to develop skills to help restore the natural area.

“Thank you for taking care of the world, and I will too.”

Second grade student
Hood River County

With an emphasis on diversity and access, Columbia Riverkeeper hired a community organizer to engage the Latino community, ensuring Latino residents, who make up about a quarter of the Hood River population, have the opportunity to actively participate in conservation efforts and lead the development of culturally-responsive programming.

Bringing volunteers and students from Gorge communities together, the organization teaches people how to monitor water quality, restore waterfront areas and develop long-term conservation plans to protect the health and vitality of the river.

Columbia Riverkeeper engages students as volunteer scientists. They help to capture how Nichols Natural Area is changing by taking photos that can be uploaded to Digital Earth Watch, a website supported by NASA, where they can be monitored for environmental changes. Susan notes that this real-world experience showed students how they can be part of making a difference: “An experience like that changes how kids perceive what learning science is about. It’s us, it’s here, it’s now. You see kids’ faces lighting up.”

Columbia Riverkeeper’s commitment to building connections between communities and the environment has established a powerful coalition of advocates that have significantly changed the way we protect and use Oregon’s natural resources.