Although people of color represent roughly 36% of the U.S. population, the professional conservation field and the environmental movement as a whole is overwhelmingly white. The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations, a 2014 assessment of 191 U.S. environmental organizations, reveals that after 50 years of modern environmentalism, the movement’s professional staff and board members remain 80-90% white. The membership of most conservation organizations is also predominantly white. Additionally, surveys of National Park visitor use indicate a mainly white demographic, despite other surveys and studies showing that environmental issues are of deep concern to many communities of color.
The pressing environmental problems facing Minnesota, our country, and the world cannot be adequately addressed if a significant portion of our nation’s population is not being engaged in conversations, recreation, and on-the-ground work to protect and preserve public lands – or if those working to preserve wilderness are only listening to their own perspectives. Preserving wild places, accessibility to clean water, and opportunities for immersion in the natural world will depend on listening to a wider array of perspectives and seeking out new and creative ideas.
The Friends of the Boundary Water Wilderness is taking steps to ensure our work is more inclusive. Our Conservation Fellows Partnership Program is working to foster a new and racially diverse generation of environmental leaders and voters – while expanding the Friends’ perspectives and networks. Our employment, board member, and intern recruitment efforts strive to intentionally engage diverse applicants. While much remains to be done to shift representation within the environmental movement, the Friends believes these first steps are vital.