Why the Forest Service Is Apologizing to Colorado Latinos

September 2009

After police busted a massive illegal marijuana farm last month run by migrant workers in a national forest---the second big haul this year---the U.S. Forest Service called a press conference to tell hikers what to look out for. Watch out for people eating tortillas, foresters said, as well as people who drink Tecate beer and listen to music with Spanish lyrics. They just might be armed marijuana growers, as several news organizations reported in August, triggering outrage from Latino communities. Foresters, Latino leaders say, were either highly insensitive or profiling. Moreover, Polly Baca, co-chairwoman of the Colorado Latino Forum, said at the time that the U.S. Forest Service's warning was "discriminatory" and could put "Hispanic campers in danger," 7 News reported. Yesterday, the Forest Service took steps to put the matter to rest by apologizing for the "regrettable references," according to The Denver Post. "We sincerely apologize to the Hispanic community and anyone else we may have offended," Rick Cables, a ranger with the U.S. Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service, says in a statement. "That was not our intent." The Forest Service has revised its warning to hikers, telling them to look for items other than beer cans and tortilla wrappers---and instead to be wary of items such as irrigation pipes, fertilizer, and large piles of trash.