Protect America’s Heritage. Protect The Grand Canyon.

10/17/2016 11:58 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2016
Overall view from the south Rim of the Grand Canyon near Tusayan, Arizona August 10, 2012. The Grand Canyon, carved out over
Charles Platiau / Reuters
Overall view from the south Rim of the Grand Canyon near Tusayan, Arizona August 10, 2012. The Grand Canyon, carved out over the eons by rushing river water, began to form 17 million years ago, making it nearly three times older than previously thought, scientists said March 6, 2008.

When President Obama created the César E. Chávez National Memorial in 2012, the first National Park unit to recognize the work of a contemporary Latino, he unleashed a wave of support for making our parks and public lands more relevant to diverse audiences.

Since taking office, President Obama has used his executive authority to add 23 national monuments to our system of protected public lands. Sites designated because of their particular historical or cultural significance include the César Chávez National Monument (CA), Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (DC), Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (OH), Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park (MD), Stonewall National Monument (NY), and Honouliuli National Monument (HI).

These places tell stories that deserve to be shared with the world. And there are many more, which is why the president is considering designating additional public lands, to better reflect and respect diverse experiences of people and nature.

Sí, Se Puede. When I coined that phrase with Arizona-born César E. Chávez, my colleague and co-founder of the United Farm Worker’s Movement, we made sure to make it inclusive. Yes, WE can. When we do things together, for the good of the greater community, we get it right.

César Chávez knew about the power of the people. Who’s got the power? We do. That’s why Latinos are coming together to stand in solidarity with America’s first people who have been living in Arizona’s Grand Canyon, a natural wonder of the world, for more than 800 years. Their story needs a new chapter. The air, water and soil of the greater Grand Canyon area have been polluted by four decades of uranium mining. Four years ago, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar moved to ban uranium mining for 20 years. A national monument designation this year would make the ban permanent.

Back in the ‘60s, we relied on diverse coalitions to protect farm workers in California and across the country. The same is true for public lands now.

More than half a million people have already submitted letters and comments in support of protecting our Grand Canyon Heritage. They are joined by a long list of organizations, including tourism, recreation, and conservation groups, endurance athletes, Latino Outdoors, Arizona Faith Network, Hispanic Access Foundation, the Hopi tribe, GreenLatinos, Intertribal Association of Arizona, and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. I’m proud to add the Dolores Huerta Foundation to this growing coalition.

Inspiring the next generation of diverse advocates to take action and build community will be a lasting legacy. Creating a new protected area for the greater Grand Canyon region— encompassing a World Heritage Site, recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, and one of the most visited national parks in the country—will be monumental.

Sí, Se Puede. Yes We Cañon. Gracias.

Dolores Huerta is a labor and civil rights activist. She was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

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