Our Public Lands:
An Inclusive Vision for the Next 100 Years
Throughout history, our public lands - including national parks, forests, monuments and other areas - have played an important role as part of America’s identity. Unfortunately, these lands have not always been reflective of our country’s demographic and ethnic diversity. This disconnect is becoming more apparent as the face of our country continues to change at a rapid pace and more urgent because the future of our public lands will depend upon public support from all Americans.
Our public lands are facing pressure in Washington, D.C., where some members of Congress would like to sell them off -- and strip the President of his authority to protect our existing national parks and monuments or to create new ones. These attacks are happening alongside increasing commercial and energy development which is putting pressure on our public lands and threatening valuable historical and cultural treasures. Across the country, many of our communities have too little open space; and climate change, air and water pollution are risking our families’ health and our future.
Without a broad base of support, we are at risk of losing the historic, cultural, natural, spiritual, economic and recreational resources that our public lands currently provide and of missing opportunities to identify and conserve other valuable resources for future generations.
As America’s National Park Service celebrates its centennial this summer, we have a responsibility to create a vision for the next century that focuses on the importance of public lands for all Americans. We must find ways to engage all segments of our population so that they become active users, owners and supporters of public lands.
A more inclusive approach to our country’s public lands over the next 100 years must be driven by three guiding principles:
- REFLECT THE FACES OF OUR COUNTRY: Our public lands must reflect the demographic and ethnic diversity of our nation’s citizens among visitors, the agencies’ workforce and in the designation of new units. This will require a cultural shift within the agencies responsible for managing and overseeing these spaces and a commitment from people outside the agencies to join together to support this approach.
- RESPECT FOR ALL CULTURES: Our public lands play a unique role in capturing the many different historical, cultural and spiritual stories that have shaped this country; celebrating acts of bravery and sacrifice, recognizing the unique contributions of all Americans, and providing opportunities for atonement and healing. We need to make sure that the full range of these stories are being told at existing and new park sites and public lands. Protecting cultural and natural landscapes that tell America’s complex history will help us learn from our past, honor our ancestors and educate future generations.
- RESPONSIBILITY TO ACTIVELY ENGAGE ALL PEOPLE: The future of our public lands depends upon public support from all Americans. Moving forward, we must actively and authentically engage a diverse range of communities in new and meaningfulways to build support for our public lands and shape the direction of our future public lands and natural resources policies.
We must use this opportunity to challenge America in its second century of conservation to create a system of public lands that engage, reflect and honor our nation’s entire people. By doing so, the 21st century will be about protecting our current public lands and designating new landscapes that more broadly reflect America’s rich and varied culture.
Maite Arce-President/CEO, Hispanic Access Foundation
Frank & Audrey Peterman-Founders, Diverse Environmental Leaders Speakers Bureau
José G. González-Founder, Latino Outdoors
Vanessa Braided Hair- Co-Founder, ecoCheyenne
Peter Conroy-Co-Chair Freedom Riders Park Charles Person, Original Freedom Rider
Dr. Carolyn Finney-Author, Black Faces White Spaces
Jose Davila-Vice President for Policy & Government Relations, Hispanic Federation
Shantha Ready Alonso-Executive Director, Creation Justice Ministries
Jocelyn Torres -Nevada Program Director, Conservation Lands Foundation
Priscilla Ouchida-Executive Director, Japanese American Citizens League
Sarah Milligan-Toffler-Executive Director, Children & Nature Network
Mark Masaoka-Policy Director, Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council
Rue Mapp- Founder and CEO, Outdoor Afro
Camilla Simon- Director, HECHO
Mark Magaña- President, GreenLatinos
Silvia N. Perez-Rathell-National Director for Corporate& Federal Relations,League of United Latin American Citizens
Teresa Ana Martinez-Executive Director, Continental Divide Trail Coalition
Loretta E. Pineda- Executive Director, Environmental Learning for Kids
Xavier Morales-Executive Director,Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
Chad Brown M.Sc. -Founder & Executive Director, Soul River Inc. - Runs Wild
Pastor Frank Ruiz-Co-Founder, Por La Creación Faith Based Alliance
Steve Dunwoody-California Director, Vet Voice Foundation
Christine Alonzo-Executive Director, The Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization
Lorette Picciano- Executive Director, Rural Coalition
Glenn Nelson-Founder, The Trail Posse
Angela Florez-Director of Leadership Programs, Valle del Sol
Jessica Reeves -Chief Operating Officer, VotoLatino
Donald Cravins, Jr.- Senior Vice President for Policy, National Urban League
Pamela Rivera-Partnership & Constituency Advocate, VOCES
Jes Ward -Executive Director, cityWILD
Hillerie C. Patton-President, The Dignitas Agency
Luke Miguel Argleben- Student Advocate