Promoting more-inclusive outdoor experiences for all
Hiking in Georgia, renowned activist and conservationist Audrey Peterman (center) is a leader in the movement to engage African Americans with the outdoors, particularly the national parks.
NATURE IS OFTEN A PLACE of sanctum, where people go to escape the stressors of everyday life. In a socially distanced world, many turned to hiking, backpacking and camping to safely get outdoors and shake off the monotony of COVID-19 isolation. But what happens when nature is not safely accessible to all?
Last year was a year of reckoning for the United States, when COVID-19 collided with another pandemic: racism. The incident of a white woman lodging a false complaint with police against Black birder Christian Cooper in Central Park revealed one of the many barriers Black individuals face when trying to enjoy nature.
Black Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population yet comprise only about 1 percent of visitors to public lands. This is due to concerns about physical safety—a painful legacy of “Whites Only” public spaces fueled by slavery, Jim Crow and racial violence—and other barriers. This lack of inclusivity can fuel the common misconception that Black individuals do not enjoy the outdoors or simply don’t belong in green spaces.
To address this issue, the National Wildlife Federation—in partnership with Black AF in STEM, The Links, Incorporated, Patagonia and Outdoor Afro—launched Creating Safe Spaces, an initiative to increase awareness of the challenges Black individuals face in safely accessing nature.
Through a three-part roundtable series followed by a national town hall, NWF provided an opportunity for Black individuals—including park rangers, educators and policy-makers—to share their experiences and offer solutions for mitigating the challenges Black people face. The recommendations include expanding Black representation in professional environmental organizations, academia and policymaking; educating the public about Black contributions in nature and conservation; and funding Black-led organizations that can cultivate safe spaces for Black communities.
“It made a lot of white people and non-Black people aware of what really does go on for so many of us,” says Cooper, a town hall participant.
The Federation seeks to expand the Safe Spaces initiative into a multiyear program focused on the challenges that other identity groups face in recreating outdoors. Only by recognizing the unique experiences that individuals face in engaging in nature can we truly foster a safe and equitable outdoors for all.
Maryland aquarium spotlight, murals of iconic wildlife, teaching tomorrow's conservation leaders and moreRead More
A groundbreaking bipartisan bill aims to address the looming wildlife crisis before it's too late, while creating sorely needed jobs.Read More
Add one of our native plant collections to your garden to help save birds, bees, butterflies, and more. Now available for 20 states with free shipping!Shop Plants
Get quotes now or call (855) 786-0941Get Quotes Now
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.