news releases

28 April 2016

First Ever Civil Rights, Environmental Justice, Conservation Coalition Announces Recommended Policies To Foster Inclusive Approach To Public Lands

Category: News Releases

On the eve of the Centennial of the National Park Service, an unprecedented effort to increase inclusion and representation of America's communities of color in our national parks and other public lands was announced today by a first-of-its-kind coalition of civil rights, environmental justice, conservation groups and community leaders and activists from across the country. The group has posted on their specific policy recommendations, which they are urging this president and the next to use as a blueprint for the nation's second century of conservation. 

Specifically, the group is asking President Obama to issue a Presidential Memorandum on the Centennial of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016, to encourage federal land management agencies to reflect the demographic and ethnic diversity of our nation's citizens; respect the historical, cultural and spiritual stories and unique contributions of all Americans; and actively engage all people. 

"The face of America is rapidly changing; yet our public lands do not reflect this demographic and ethnic diversity. We have a moral responsibility to fix this disconnect now, for our children, for our grandchildren and for all those that came before us. We must head into the next 100 years with a strong commitment to a more inclusive approach to public lands that puts a priority on engaging all Americans and protecting cultural and natural landscapes that tell our country's complex history," said Dr. Carolyn Finney, author, Black Faces White Spaces, and coalition participant.

By 2020, half of all youth in America will be of color. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2043, a majority of our country's residents will be people of color. Yet an Outdoor Foundation study found that 73 percent of Americans who participated in outdoor activities in 2014 were white. The nation's changing demographics, coupled with the threats of climate change, increased energy development and partisan attacks on clean air, water and public lands, requires the urgent engagement of all Americans in the use and protection of the nation's national parks and other public lands.

The coalition's policy recommendations for a more inclusive system of public lands come on the heels of President Obama's23rd national monument designation and a National Park Week Proclamation committing to helping all Americans discover the outdoors and enjoy America's public lands. Building on the President's leadership thus far, the coalition's policy recommendations identify five areas of focus, with immediate and long-term actions identified in each category. These include:  1) Access to public lands, 2) Historical, spiritual, sacred and cultural preservation, 3) Landscape-scale conservation, 4) Stakeholder engagement and, 5) Workforce diversity. 

According to a 2014 report by the Center for American Progress, of the 460 national parks and monuments, only 112—24 percent—recognize or are dedicated to diverse peoples and cultures.

"President Obama has shown great leadership on parks and public lands, but there is always more progress to be made. We challenge this President and the next one to embrace a vision for the next century of conservation that focuses on the importance of national parks and public lands for all Americans," said Maite Arce, President/CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation.

The group has posted its policy document online as part of the official Centennial Initiative petition to President Obama. The group's vision statement and a full list of coalition members is also listed there.

"The President should use the Centennial to call for a more inclusive approach to conservation of our public lands that reflects the faces of our country; respects different cultures and takes responsibility for actively engaging all people," said Mark Masaoka, Policy Director of the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.

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