Ag Dept. Launches Spanish-Language Ads to Help Young Latinos 'Reconnect with Nature'

By Elizabeth Harrington | October 9, 2012 | 6:28 PM EDT

(Image from USDA/U.S. Forest Service)

( – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a Spanish-language advertising campaign to “help Latinos develop a love of nature and understand their role in protecting it,” according to departmental information.

In partnership with the Ad Council and a “multicultural” global advertising group, the USDA campaign says there is a dearth of young Hispanics enjoying the outdoors, according to a USDA blog post, issued Thursday.

“The connection to nature is especially low for young Latinos,” wrote Kathryn Sosbe, of the U.S. Forest Service. “Statistically, Latinos now make up 23 percent of the under-18 population in the United States yet only 5.8 percent of youth who participate in outdoor recreation are Hispanic, according a report by The Outdoor Foundation.”

“Naturally, the Forest Service is concerned about that number, especially given that most Americans live within 200 miles of a national forest or grassland,” it said.

The Spanish-language print, radio and television ads “depict a Latino family exploring the outdoors,” according to the USDA. The ads are part of “Descubre el Bosque,” the Spanish-language version of the popular “Discover the Forest” project that the Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service launched in 2009.

One ad shows a Hispanic taxi driver in New York City finding serenity in a forest, while another shows a boy finishing his homework before having an outdoor picnic with his family.

The target audience is Hispanic “parents and guardians of 'tweens (children ages 8 -12),” according to Havas, the global advertising and communications services group that produced the ads.

“According to our research, many Hispanics have misconceptions about how close they are to a forest. The fact is that most Americans live in relatively close proximity to some form of forest, park, or grassland, and can easily take a day trip,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council.

“We want to get the word out that not only are forests and parks a wonderful place to visit and escape the stress of daily life, but they are much closer to us than we think,” she said.

The Ad Council explained, when the project was initially launched in June, that the campaign is “an effort to motivate Hispanic families to get outside more often and reconnect with nature.”

The USDA cited the nonprofit Outdoor Foundation’s annual “Outdoor Recreation Participation Report,” as a reason to encourage Hispanics to engage in nature more.

In its most recent report, the organization found: “In 2011, nearly half of all Americans got up and got outside,” with Hispanics accounting for 6 percent of the total.  The Outdoor Foundation said it conducted over 38,000 online interviews, upon which it based its findings.

“Although Hispanic Americans have one of the lowest overall outdoor participation rates, those who do participate go outside the most often,” the report said.

The organization also found that Hispanics cited “lack of time” as the number one reason why they do not spend more recreation time outdoors.

The USDA ad campaign simply “helps young people connect to nature,” according to Forest Service employee Fabian Garcia.

“I tell young people, ‘Realize that you are nature,’” Garcia said. “In other words, we’re not separate from it. It’s not foreign to us.”