Conservationists of Color

“An affinity group for people of color who believe in protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we love while creating healthy, thriving communities. ”

Welcome to the Conservationists of Color Resources Page

Last Updated 2021

  1. Organizational Change and Relevance
  • What Do the Museum and Land Trust Communities Have in Common?
    Viso, Olga. Viso, Olga. “Decolonizing the Art Museum: The Next Wave”. New York Times, May 2018. 
    An independent curator and museum consultant, and a former museum director speaks to the need for museums to remain relevant. Many points in this piece parallel the challenges (and opportunities) faced by our land trust community – just substitute “land trust” wherever you see “museum”.

2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • Equity vs. Equality

Cultural Organizing blog by Paul Kuttner, who comments on the familiar equity vs. equality graphic with a number of good points:

  • Implicit or Unconscious Bias

Understanding implicit bias will help you to be more self-aware and inclusive. It might also help you to bring more equity and fairness to your everyday decisions and interactions. Project Implicit offers a “quiz” (actually several different quizzes) to test your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities.

  • Diversity Leads to Better Outcomes

Below is a collection of papers that detail how diversity can lead to better outcomes in different forms and in different sectors.

3. Working Across Difference

  • 21 Things You Can Do to Be More Respectful of Native American Cultures
  • Nature Doesn’t Care if You’re LGBTQ+

“LGBTQ+ Adventurers Are All About Getting Out in the Woods,” is an article by Emily Zak in the March/April 2018 edition of Sierra magazine. It describes the healing effects of nature on LGBTQ+ participants, and also mentions that they don’t always feel safe outside, especially when there are other folks around who may not be understanding. This is another proof point that it doesn’t matter who you are, humans benefit from being in nature if the interaction is handled properly. 

  • Appropriate Language

An article by Peter d’Errico, Legal Studies Department, University of Massachusetts, Native American Indian Studies – A Note on Names© is helpful for navigating terms when talking about Native Americans. Another resource provides information on terms for other sectors (mental health, disability, transgender, and race).

  • 8 Principles for Multicultural Engagement

Increasing Relevance, Relationships and Results: Principles and Practices for Effective Multicultural Communication. Metropolitan Group, 2008.

  • Native Americans, Thanksgiving and History

This is a recent piece in the New York Times by Maeve Higgins titled “My Thanksgiving Learning Curve: An Irish woman’s foray into this American tradition.” It presents an interesting perspective from someone new to the United States who is learning about our history and culture. 

4. Race and the Environmental Movement

Jedediah Purdy is a professor of law at Duke University teaching constitutional, environmental, and property law. 

This article on the CNN website highlights a virtual Who’s Who of people and organizations that are actively getting people from all walks of life outdoors. 

Outside Magazine article by Brentin Mock (February 27, 2017). “The same people and organizations we admire for protecting our wild places also have a history of being apathetic—or plain antagonistic—toward issues of race and social justice.”

Mother Jones article by Brentin Mock (July 31, 2014). “1970s scholars posited that an ‘apartheid ecology’ excluded people of color from environmentalism. Were they right?”

  • Climate Change and Relocation of Native American Communities

From NPR: Native communities are disproportionately affected by climate-related flooding, in part because of that very same history of pushing Native peoples onto marginal land. This relates the story of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe that relocated out of a flood plain after a normal flood, but before a monster flood. And this was after they had been forced to move from their original homelands near the east coast. This shows there are technical as well as cultural challenges to moving whole communities. Currently, the federal government is working on plans to move Native American towns in Alaska, Louisiana and elsewhere. 

Yale Environment 360 article by Diane Toomey (June 21, 2018):   If environmental organizations want to become racially diverse, says sociologist Dorceta Taylor, they need to change the way they perceive people of color. In an e360 interview, she talks about how the conservation movement must transform itself to become more inclusive and effective.  

USA Today (October 2, 2016) 

  • Woman of Color in Wide Open Spaces

Longreads article by Minda Honey (March 2017): While visiting national parks to detox from the oppressive whiteness of the MFA experience, Minda Honey is reminded the only places to retreat from whiteness in this country are the spaces women of color hold for each other.

Dr. Carolyn Finney (book)

5. Thinking About Privilege 

We are taught that racism is something that puts others at a disadvantage, but maybe overlook the flip side of White privilege putting people at an advantage. Since individuals don’t control whether they are born White or not, White privilege isn’t something to be ashamed of but if you are White, you should be aware of it.

This is a more recent article on the same topic from a poor, White woman who is the first in her family on both sides to go to college. At first she disagreed with McIntosh (who wrote the article above), then she came to understand the concept of Intersectionality, which “recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways and definitely not privileged in others.”

Land Trust Alliance Tools

A tool that provides a structure for land trusts to assess current activities, frame opportunities for community conservation projects and programs, and prioritize new approaches. By using the tool, you can go through all of your organization’s projects and programs and identify which of nine community assets are impacted by your work. By having a checklist with examples of those impacts, you can check off the community assets that apply. The more assets that are impacted, the farther along the community conservation continuum you are. Often, land trusts find that they are impacting more assets than they might have originally thought.

A tool that provides guidance about the kinds of changes you might expect from community conservation and how you might quantify those changes. There are draft goals, indicators and measures under each of the nine community assets to give you an idea of what is possible. It also provides step-by-step instructions and tips on how to create your own measures that are realistic and meaningful for your particular organization, its partners and activities.

Designed to help a land trust understand itself and its place in the community. It will also help an organization to understand its community better while identifying new ways to use its mission of land conservation to impact the community. Regardless of whether a land trust is new to community conservation or has been practicing it for years, this tool can help it to identify new groups to engage in projects and programming with a basic engagement plan.

3-page PDFs that describe how land trusts large and small are doing community conservation nationwide. There are more than 50 posted on our public website. Go to the bottom of the page and in the ‘Ways to Learn’ blue bar, select ‘Success Story’ and then ‘View All.’

8-12 page PDFs that the Alliance created to spark ideas and generate discussion within land trusts, their communities, and with donors and funders about different ways land trusts of all scales can serve and connect to people with land and water projects and programs. There are a total of five that cover land trusts working with schools, youth out of school, elders, veterans, and food and hunger.

  • Community Conservation Assessment

The Land Trust Alliance developed a community conservation assessment to support land trusts in establishing their “why” for undertaking community conservation work, as well as helping them be more strategic in how they are going about this work, and the programs and projects they are undertaking.  The assessments explore the systems, structures and culture that could present barriers to deeper community engagement and a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization, and provide land trusts with a broader understanding of the communities they could serve. The goal of the assessment is to provide land trusts with a roadmap for building their capacity to generate deep and broad public support for land conservation, support community priorities, and strategically conserve and steward land in their region.

Other Tools

Nature of Americans documents how profound changes are occurring in the American public’s connections to nature, the outdoors, and wildlife. These pose a nationwide problem since human health and well-being depend on beneficial contact with nature. Findings from this study are prompting nature conservation, environmental education, and outdoor recreation leaders to expand how they work to connect people with nature.

A report by Maya A. Beasley, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut for Diverse Green (which is now Green 2.0).  This is a study of three practices for increasing the diversity of any organization: Readiness, recruitment, and retention. Dr. Beasley interviewed and surveyed CEOs, COOs and HR Directors of major U.S.-based environmental NGOs and foundations for this report.

A publication by the California Council of Land Trusts that details how changes in culture, demographics, politics, finances and climate are spurring California land trusts to reconsider organizations, priorities, methods and funding. Most importantly, it highlights the need to understand who land trust conservation programs are serving, with whom they are working and what else they need to conserve—considering land trust relationships to both people and land.

Meyer Memorial Trust’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Spectrum Tool helps an organization determine where it is on its DEI journey and identify potential areas for future work. The tool describes organizational characteristics at different points along the DEI continuum for twelve different dimensions of DEI work:

DEI Vision, Commitment, Leadership, Policies, Infrastructure, Training, Diversity, Data, Community, Decisions, Accountability, Inclusion.

A website with downloadable infographics, reports, action guides and tool kits about connecting people to nature. CNN has lots of other articles and reports on children and nature on their website, but these are easy to find and use.

The community Engagement Toolkit by the Collective Impact Forum is a series of tools for planning community engagement to be more purposeful, equitable, transparent, and strategic so that community members are true partners for achieving impact.

This tool by the Orton Family Foundation was created as part of their Community Heart and Soul Project. It expands on the concept of connecting with other people to connecting to other networks in the community to ensure you have as complete a picture of your community as possible.

The Diversity Diamond is a tool created by Heather Berthoud, a consultant who partners with social justice leaders and organizations to create enduring solutions for organizational effectiveness. The Diversity Diamond can help groups decide what issues or programs to initiate in order to attract more people of color (or women, young people, people with different income levels, etc.) into their organization. The model has two axis: internal and external focus and individual and organizational focus, which create four ways to approach it, plus a continuous learning focus in the middle. It is created to help organizations deal with diversity and inclusion, and also works well for devising an appropriate approach to community conservation. 

The National Museum of the American Indian and its partners among Native nations and in the education community, are producing new classroom resources and teacher training that demonstrate more complete narratives and build an empathetic and better informed public. 

Land Trust Case Studies

  • Happy About Land Conservation

Jason Walser, former executive director of the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, was so proud to be associated with Brenda Chunn of Mount Vernon Community Gardens in his home county. She helped re-connect people from across the county to land and food at the community garden created by a bequest. Her church’s vacation bible school created a video and the land trust promoted them as a beacon of joy and connection to land. Brenda herself nearly died of health problems a year before. She took on the community garden as part of her recovery and has made it a resounding success. The land is saved and Brenda was saved, as were the spirits of the community that congregate at this soulful place.  

Watch a video of the congregation outside in the garden. 

  • Land Trust Takes a Big Leap into Community Conservation 

The accredited Edisto Island Open Land Trust (EIOLT) purchased a very important property that includes 10 acres surrounding an important historic house that was at risk of being lost forever. The property is now protected from any future threat of being developed into a high-density multi-home tract. The Hutchinson House, the oldest intact freedman’s house on Edisto, was built about two decades after the Civil War, when some newly freed slaves on this sea island were faring well. Henry Hutchinson was the son of one of the island’s most prosperous African-Americans. EIOLT’s acquisition ensures the dilapidated home does not crumble to the ground or become demolished by another landowner unaware of the historical significance of the house. There are two articles in the Charleston Post and Courier about the project here and here. This project is a dramatic change for the organization and John Girault, the executive director, is taking a big risk that can have big rewards.

  • There Is Not One Inch of Land in the United States That Is Not Native American Territory

Mount Umunhum stands 3,486 feet tall between San Jose, California and the Pacific Ocean. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District collaborated with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band with an open mind and open arms to restore the top of Mt. Umunhum and open it to the public. The results of this collaboration are deeply meaningful for those involved, and they are visually stunning for anyone who visits the peak of Mt. Umunhum. This film will inspire you to think about the land under you and how you can contribute to its restoration and healing. Annie Burke created an 11-minute film about Mt. Umunhum that’s worth watching. 

  • Maine Coast Heritage Trust Expanded Resource List for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

The Land Trust Program at Maine Coast Heritage Trust initiated this list in response to a strong interest among its constituents to address the issue of equal access to conserved lands for all. 

Special thanks to Karena Mahung for compiling this list compiling resources and tools for Community Conservation; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Related Topics.

Conservationists of Color

Do you have articles, academic papers, videos, blog posts, or books you’d like to add to our List of Resources? Drop us a line here: