A coalition of more than 50 conservation, outdoor advocacy, outdoor industry companies, and 500 attendees, gathered in Denver, alongside the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, at Elevate Conservation: Outdoors for All. The event advocated for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoor and conservation industries, launched the Next 100 Coalition’s Values Statement, which was signed by almost 50 event sponsors, and called for the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
“As the Next 100 Coalition always has, this event calls for a public lands system that reflects diverse cultures and experiences and respects and uplifts our collective experience in America. The protection and celebration of our public lands requires a large, diverse, inclusive, and committed coalition of supporters and advocates,” said event speaker Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, echoing the beliefs and commitments outlined in the Values Statement.
The demographics of the U.S. are rapidly changing, necessitating that conservation and outdoor recreation change, too. By 2020, half of youth in America will be people of color. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2043, a majority of our country’s residents will be people of color. Yet recent research shows that 73 percent of Americans who participate in outdoor activities on federal public lands are white.
Luz Ortega, a young person whose first experiences in the outdoors were through programs with Environmental Learning for Kids and Big City Mountaineers said, “I want everyone, including people from previously underrepresented communities of color, to have access to the benefits that federal public lands, state parks, and city open space offer — for education, physical and mental health, and more.”
Master of Ceremonies Jose Gonzalez, who founded Latino Outdoors, said, “It’s important for the outdoor industry to support and promote a public lands and conservation workforce that reflects the current and growing diversity of our nation. In the service of an engaged public where everyone has equitable access to public lands, we must also support program like the LWCF, our country’s most successful conservation program. From local ballfields to iconic national parks, from urban to wild, LWCF is outdoors for all, providing diverse outdoor recreation opportunities for diverse people across the nation.”
“Only when we unite our voices and focus our efforts can we scale the amount of good we can do in this world. It’s time for us to show up in a way that represents the modern face of the outdoors and yet delivers one loud, aligned voice in favor of protecting our public lands,” stated Molly Cuffe, Director of Global Communications with Smartwool. “No matter your culture, your profession, your personal affiliations – if you’ve ever stopped in awe of a beautiful sunset, marveled at the sight of a wild animal, felt small at the foot of a mountain or stood in wonder under a star-filled sky, it’s time to unite and engage in making sure our public lands are open, inviting and accepting of all people and cultures