Diverse outdoor and environmental leaders from across the nation come together to increase access to public lands for underserved youth and communities of color; Senator Heinrich prepares to introduce national outdoor equity legislation
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) welcomed the launch of Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E., a national outdoor equity initiative created by Black, Indigenous, and leaders of color from states and organizations across the country.
The new initiative follows the lead of two groundbreaking outdoor equity programs first developed in New Mexico, and later, in California. The racially and ethnically diverse organizations who forged these efforts now lead this national initiative to transform the face of the great outdoors, which will be a blueprint for legislation Senator Heinrich plans to introduce soon.
"The livelihoods of people of color have long been rooted in the outdoors, but they haven't always had equitable access to public lands. In New Mexico, outdoor equity advocates and community leaders led the way in breaking down some of these barriers with the creation of the first-of-its-kind Outdoor Equity Fund. Now, the work continues with the Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. initiative, an effort that I am proud to support," said Heinrich. "Outdoor opportunities in our parks and public lands should be accessible to all Americans regardless of wealth, where you grow up, or the color of your skin. I look forward to working with this powerful national group of leaders from diverse backgrounds and communities to build on recent historic victories for conservation and make our parks and public lands places everyone can enjoy. We must devote real resources to expanding opportunities for those in communities who have been historically excluded and ensure we are supporting the next generation of stewards of our air, land, water and wildlife."
Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. aims to address the chronic and systemic inequities that exist in this country that prevent underserved youth and communities of color from engaging in meaningful outdoor recreation and educational experiences on public lands. The initiative will ensure that underserved youth, regardless of income or zip code, have an opportunity to explore the great outdoors and to reap the health, educational, and career-building benefits.
Angel Peña, Executive Director of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, said:
"When Black, Indigenous, and People of Color lead, we can create the change we want to see in our communities and in the outdoors. Every disadvantaged young person in this country deserves an opportunity to dig their hands in the dirt, to experience the rush of a roaring river, and to see the natural world outside of the built environment. This project will help create the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and people to care for our air, land, water, wildlife and climate. It starts with a plan, and it continues with targeted investments in our communities. Nuestra Tierra is proud to work on this groundbreaking project."
Angelou Ezeilo, Founder and CEO of the Greening Youth Foundation, said:
"Black, Latino and Indigenous People of Color have a symbiotic relationship with land that dates back thousands of years. However, due to a thorny past, BIPOC communities have not been afforded the opportunity to equitably access our nation's public lands for recreation and employment purposes. The Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. initiative is a critical step in leveling the playing field and ensuring underserved youth have access to the outdoors as well as bringing resources to marginalized communities. Greening Youth Foundation is proud to be a part of this transformational movement to nurture the next generation of environmental leaders."
Jaylyn Gough, Founder and Executive Director of Native Womens Wilderness, said:
"As a child, I thought only white men and women could be mountaineers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts...because that was all that was being advertised. However, as Native people, who knows the land better? This is the land our Ancestors traversed. We add up wandering and seeking out its beautiful treasures. We have a deep spiritual connection with the land. It's not about bagging that peak, or sending that route. For us it's the connection, it's knowing this is the land our ancestors walked on, it gives us life, it brings us joy.
Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO for Outdoor Afro, said:
"Black Americans have a particular history in the United States that has denied us access to parks, beaches, and public lands. The Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. project is a step towards understanding the depth of those atrocities and providing a way forward to support and steward the next phase of leaders. Public lands are an invaluable resource to connect us to nature and each other and this project helps affirm the fundamental right that all people have access to the outdoors- whether it's in our local parks or our National Parks. Outdoor Afro is honored to continue the work in creating Black leadership in the outdoors."
Teresa Martinez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, said:
"Creating equitable outdoor access for all regardless of where you come from or what you look like is fundamental to the future of our Nation's public lands. When these efforts are driven by Black, Indigenous and People of Color leaders, not only does it look different and feel different, it is different- it ensures that our communities and our people are represented and included and that we will be able to share in and experience our natural places, and not just in the back country, but places close to home. And as a more diverse outdoor community is supported, encouraged and able to access nature, we build relationships to these places, and build them with our friends, families, and communities as a whole. And not only is that just good for all of our souls, it helps make sure there is a whole new generation of future stewards and lovers of these places- for years to come."
Jason Swann, Co-founder of Rising Routes, said:
"Everyone should have access to the outdoors and experience Mothers Nature's benefits of freedom, peace and equanimity. Resources provided to the Outdoor FUTURE Act will help reduce barriers to access and experiences in nature, create safe and welcoming spaces in the outdoors and elevate the next leaders and protectors of our planet."
Jose Gonzalez, Founder of Latino Outdoors, said:
"A key component of structural change in equity work comes through policy. It codifies values, sets priorities, and allocates resources so that good intentions operationalize actions and changes that directly benefit those that have been most impacted by an inequitable system: our Black, Indigenous, youth of color and their communities. This is what outdoor equity looks like."
Vasu Sojitra, The North Face professional athlete and co-founder of Inclusive Outdoors Project, said:
"The need to redistribute funds and build budget equity is necessary in fostering and supporting communities that have been historically excluded and erased from the greater outdoor narrative within the US. We must all work together to provide sustainable resources that build affected communities up the ways that they best see fit; financially, culturally, and ethically. Let's continue to build tomorrow's future today!
Gabe Vasquez, Las Cruces City Councilor and co-author of the New Mexico Outdoor Equity Fund, said:
"This initiative will level the playing field for youth across the country who lack the opportunities to have meaningful experiences in the great outdoors. For far too long, our nation's parks, public lands, and wild places have been inaccessible to underserved youth and families, who face insurmountable challenges to experiencing our nation's natural heritage. This coalition will continue working in earnest to ensure that we move from outdoor equity conversations to swift action to undo the systemic burdens that reserve our nation's wildest places to those with privilege."
For more information about Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E., visit www.outdoorfuture.org