What does racism have to do with conservation?

Jun 04, 2020
It's been hard not to pay attention to the news in the past two weeks. In the midst of the pandemic, the brutal reality of racism has returned front and center to our view.


It's been hard not to pay attention to the news in the past two weeks. In the midst of the pandemic, the brutal reality of racism has returned front and center to our view. We at the Land Trust are saddened and angry that Christian Cooper can't bird safely in Central Park, that Ahmaud Arbery couldn't go for a run, and that George Floyd was murdered in a brutal, senseless manner. We are also angry because these three men are only the tip of an iceberg of violence and injustice against Black people in this country. The privileges that keep many of us from considering race every day do not extend to the Black members of our community. Black people live in a system that threatens their safety, their health, their families, their culture, their future, and their lives . . . every single day.

Racism and injustice also play a major role in the conservation movement and in the allocation and conservation of land and resources. If we really want to build a future where the natural world thrives, and we do, we need to dismantle systemic racism and bring justice for those that our movement oppresses and excludes. If we don’t, we continue to oppress and exclude. This means as conservationists we can’t be quiet when we see racism and injustice.

The Land Trust has been learning a lot about racism and justice and the ways that we in the conservation movement can work to truly engage everyone in conserving and caring for the natural world. We are listening to the voices of indigenous people and people of color, and are following their lead on how we can build a healthy, sustainable, equitable future. We are learning how to be allies. We are early in our journey and know that we have made mistakes, are currently making mistakes, and we will continue to make mistakes in the future. But we won’t be silent on these issues.  

The Deschutes Land Trust is committed to building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. We know our efforts are only a small fraction of what is needed to change the world we live in that causes so many so much fear and anguish. For now, we hope that our commitment to the following actions will contribute to the larger whole:

  • Using our Equity Council to take actions and make decisions that improve the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of the Land Trust. This includes within our organization and in programming and projects that impact the broader community.
  • Fostering a culture of learning around diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Land Trust. This includes offering regular learning opportunities for staff and board members.
  • Building our understanding of how we can increase the resources we devote to serving underrepresented communities, representing marginalized voices, and hiring/retaining staff from underrepresented/minority/marginalized backgrounds. Equity is, at root, about resource allocation, and this commitment recognizes that underlying truth.

Where will you put your efforts? How will you help make our community more just and equitable?


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