Juneteenth is a time for us to honor the end of slavery in the United States and celebrate freedom. It is a time to reflect on our nation's past and educate ourselves for its future.
As we reflect on Juneteenth—an official state holiday as of this year—it’s important to acknowledge the ways that racism has seeped into different parts of our everyday lives. Inequalities and systematic barriers bleed into every system, big and small, of our society. The world of conservation and outdoor recreation is no different.
Creating Outdoor Equality
The way that we work at Conservation Minnesota is to listen first. As the Public Land & Outdoor Recreation Program Manager, I don’t go into a community and tell folks what they need to do. I listen to what a community wants and what their needs are with the goal of finding common ground and ways that we can work together. What I’ve heard in my conversations with the public and local leaders is that many communities feel unsafe, unheard, and unwelcome in our state’s parks, public lands, trails, and campgrounds. Whether that’s a result of negative experiences or because of a long history of being excluded from decision making about our natural resources, many people of color feel that it’s not a place for them.
Everyone who calls Minnesota home must have equal opportunities to enjoy our Great Outdoors and take part in all forms of outdoor recreation. Whether someone attends a barbeque in the park or enjoys a walk through their neighborhood, if they spend any amount of time outdoors to unwind or be with loved ones, they’re an outdoor recreationist.
It shouldn’t matter how much money someone makes or how much gear they own. Every Minnesotan deserves an equal say in decisions about our natural resources, local parks, and public lands.
For far too long, conservation organizations have catered to a business-as-usual approach to outdoor recreation, which has left many Black, brown, and Indigenous communities out of the conversation and out of our most iconic outdoor destinations and recreational activities. We are guilty of this too. Things are getting better—more nonprofits, governments, local organizations, and companies commit time and resources to diversify their staff, reach historically underserved communities, and elevate the voices and histories of those who have been erased or traditionally overlooked. However, more work must be done to intentionally create a welcoming and inclusive outdoor recreation culture in Minnesota.
If we want all of Minnesota to thrive and be a world-renowned destination for outdoor recreation, we need to do better. We miss out on human potential and opportunity when voices are silenced or left out. That’s why I’m committed to listening first and continuing to redefine what outdoor recreation means for all who call Minnesota home.
Building the Future
At Conservation Minnesota, we don’t have it all figured out. We are learning alongside partners, members, and our communities. But looking at our past and learning from it can change our future. We are committed to ensuring every Minnesotan has opportunities to be a part of our Great Outdoors.
Listen in on how Minnesota is creating outdoor spaces for all.