Reimagining Conservation: The Next 100 Years

    July 27, 2018
    by Kevin Bryan

    In March 2016, 35 grassroots organizations came together in a first-of-its-kind discussion among civil rights, environmental justice, health equity, and grassroots conservation organizations pursuing a shared vision of a more diverse and inclusive culture in managing and preserving our nation’s public lands and waters. Two years later, the Next 100 Coalition continues to lead a movement bringing that vision to reality.

    Next 100 members include organizations empowering their constituents to realize their connection to the natural world, and to understand how that connection can transform their own lives, families, and communities. Most members represent people-of-color communities that have consistently found themselves on the fringes of opportunity. Our existing concept of conservation is often limited to boundaries of national parks and monuments, and does not stretch to include young boys and girls from communities represented by Coalition members. This concept of conservation seldom veers off historic lands and trails to connect us as a nation, providing common paths to our histories, cultures, and experiences. The Next 100 Coalition is part of a broader re-imagination of our connection to our natural world that reverberates throughout the conservation and public lands communities. Our members have brought together grassroots leaders, people-of-color advocacy organizations and established conservation organizations to work towards a shared vision for a culturally inclusive future. The Coalition has been working at the federal, state, and local levels of government to encourage decision makers to pursue policies that increase access to the benefits of our public lands, to better engage our communities in the decision making process regarding those policies, and to build a workforce that better reflects the changing demographics of our nation.

    Building on this collective effort, the Next 100 Coalition convened its first National Summit on May 4 – 5, 2018. The Summit brought 100 participants from across the country to Las Vegas to discuss and construct a strategic policy agenda to address attacks on access and protections of public lands while growing the diverse partnerships necessary to promote and implement a more equitable and inclusive public lands and conservation system. Our first day together focused on our shared experiences in nature and discussions around a shared policy agenda. The second day of the Summit featured Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), who stressed the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in public lands management, particularly highlighting the public health and economic benefits of those spaces and the need for greater access to those opportunities for underserved communities. She spoke to the need for a more diverse public lands workforce and emphasized the need for more youth development and internship programs to build the pipeline for tomorrow’s conservation and public lands workforce and entrepreneurs.

    We continue to build on the success of the Summit. The Coalition is involved in several activities at this week’s Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer Market in Denver, CO, all focused on encouraging outdoor companies to join our effort to create a more diverse, equitable, inclusive conservation and public lands agenda. On Tuesday, July 24, the Next 100 Coalition presented its Shared Values statement, which was born out of our Summit conversations. We hope that the statement serves as a rallying cry for all organizations that believe each of us should be able to reap the benefits of our shared public lands, parks, and open spaces. The Coalition is also engaging with and supporting other efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at the OR Show. We will continue to refine the Next 100 Policy Agenda over the next few weeks, and we expect to unveil that agenda in September.

    While these efforts provide a good starting point, they are by no means sufficient; much work remains to be done. The Coalition is working to establish a broader dialogue about increasing access of communities of color to public lands and making sure all of us can take advantage of the opportunities that parks and waters offer for better health and for professional and economic advancement. We will need the partnership of a wide array of organizations, including the philanthropic community, to spread this message to decision makers and the broader public.

    Our society must continue to embrace and support the different ways in which we connect with nature. We must also make sure these ways reflect our ever-widening diversity. The opportunities afforded by our public lands and waters are a collective inheritance that belongs to all of us in the present and future. The Next 100 Coalition will engage our leaders to push for policies and programs that reflect our nation as it is, not as it was. And as we confront challenges that emerge as we broaden our reach, we will be buoyed by the knowledge that the Next 100 agenda represents the will of the people. 

    Kevin Bryan is a senior policy director at the Keystone Policy Center. He is also a strategist and coordinator for the Next 100 Coalition, a group of organizations seeking a more diverse, inclusive culture and approach to how we manage, protect and connect to our public lands.

    Solar Youth works locally

    Solar Youth works locally with youth in New Haven CT delivering programs that are based on our unique program model for urban environmental education. We believe that for real change to occur it is going to come from the communities most acutely impacted. Our programs (1) support youth in the develop of critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills to be lifelong stewards of the environment; (2) creates opportunities for youth to teach others the knowledge, skills and motivations of stewardship; and (3) motivate Black and Latino youth to enter professions related to environmental conservation. We hope that groups like ours can be part of this broader conversation. We look forward to that opportunity.


    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
    All comments are reviewed and moderated.
    Image CAPTCHA
    Enter the characters shown in the image.