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Executive Director’s Report, Feb 2020

Announcing CalWild’s Public Lands Equity and Resilience Program

By Chris Morrill, Executive Director

The conservation community launched the modern environmental movement. It was the catalyst for many of the environmental ethos we hold broadly today. From a National Parks system to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, these visionaries pushed us towards a world that protects its natural resources and values the wild beauty Americans are fortunate enough to enjoy.

However, we have also seen the movement’s legacy fail to embody the inclusive language it espoused in creating and protecting the federal public lands system.

For a long time the conservation movement has excluded, whether intentionally or not, many more diverse communities. This has resulted in a much whiter, older, and wealthier movement than necessary  to achieve the long-term protections we covet.

Our work today is to re-interpret the ethos of those early conservationists and acknowledge mistakes and missteps. In so doing we can build a conservation community that can not only withstand demographic, economic, and political change, but can also more fully embody the notion of lands managed for the “public”.

CalWild has worked for years to empower local groups and activists to protect the places they love. That approach has resulted in 13 million acres of wilderness and 1,500 miles of wild and scenic rivers protected.

While developing our most recent public lands proposals, we have worked to engage these neglected groups and stakeholders. First developed as part of our northwest campaign, this big-tent approach seeks to empower these historically marginalized voices.

Engaging these groups is not a secondary part of our campaigns, but instead the core element of any campaign or project we work on.

CalWild prioritizes those stakeholders that hold strong conservation values but have not always been included. We do our best to empower them in public lands advocacy.

However, when we look to what the future of the conservation community could and should look like, this internal prioritization seems insufficient. That is why in November the CalWild Board adopted our first Equity and Inclusion Statement.

It is also why I’m proud to launch CalWild’s Public Lands Equity and Resilience Program (PLER).

The PLER Program will focus on new demographics and geographies, as we look to expand the conservation community and assemble a group of public lands advocates that will better represent 21st century California.

Our first move as part of this program was prioritizing the hiring of CalWild’s first San Joaquin Valley Organizer, André Sanchez.

The San Joaquin Valley is home to the public lands of the southern Sierra and includes many areas of the Central Coast including the Carrizo Plan National Monument, the Diablo Range, and Los Padres National Forest. The Valley’s large Latino population uses public lands extensively and has always valued natural places.

André’s work will focus on connecting with many of the groups and individuals in the region. He will help them develop the tools to translate the use and community value of nature into mainstream public lands advocacy on their terms.

Our Public Lands Equity and Resilience Program will not only prioritize certain geographies and demographics. The program will also guide our strategy for all current and future campaigns.

Improving our work in this way will help our campaigns reflect the needs of all the stakeholders looking to protect California’s public lands and begin to build a more inclusive, just, and effective conservation movement for generations to come.

For more information, visit our Public Lands Equity and Resilience Program webpage.


Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at cmorrill@calwild.org.