ASHEBORO, NC--The North Carolina Children and Nature Coalition (NCCAN!) announced today that the keynote speaker for their upcoming annual conference, March 25 at the N.C. Zoo, will be Juan D. Martinez, national speaker and advocate for the National Children & Nature Network and spokesperson for the Sierra Club "Building Bridges to the Outdoors" program.

A product of south-central Los Angeles, Martinez is the national Natural Leaders Network coordinator for the Children & Nature Network. His passion to empower individuals and youth led him to direct Sierra Club's first environmental justice youth leadership academy in Los Angeles.

In 2009 in Washington, D.C., Martinez introduced Department of Interior's Ken Salazar at Powershift, the largest youth gathering on climate change, and was invited by the White House to attend the National Forum on Clean Energy Economy. Martinez was also a keynote speaker at the 2010 Outdoor Retailers Winter Show in Salt Lake City.

In 2006, Martinez was a delegate to the Latino Congreso, the largest gathering of Latino key figures in the U.S., and he is included in "Hispanics Living Green." Publication of the book is being celebrated in March 2010 with a Congressional reception in Washington, DC.

A student at California State University in Los Angeles, he is a recipient of Congresswoman Hilda Solis' Environmental Youth Leadership Award and the "Looking to the Future" award from the Breaking the Color Barriers conference, the largest conference about people of color in the great outdoors. He additionally received a "Green for All" 2009 fellowship and is on the national executive committee for the Sierra Student Coalition.

As a spokesperson for the Sierra Clubs' Building Bridges to the Outdoors initiative, which works to connect all youth with nature, Martinez dedicates his energy and free time on grassroots campaigns that vary from health care and housing discrimination, to creating garden space in the city of Los Angeles.

NCCAN! is a state coalition housed within the N.C. Zoological Society. NCCAN!'s vision is that children will have the opportunity to value, discover and experience the natural world around them. Stakeholders across the state will gather at the N.C. Zoo for the annual conference to learn from each other, develop new ideas and find ways to advocate as one voice.

For more information on the annual conference or NCCAN! visit the website at or call 336-879-7285.

The North Carolina Zoological Society is a private, non-profit organization that supports the N.C. Zoo and conservation. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly Perdue, Governor.