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Groups Want to Step Up Diversity in Nation's Parks

Environmental and civil rights groups want to see more diversity in the visitors to the nation's parks. (nps.gov)
Environmental and civil rights groups want to see more diversity in the visitors to the nation's parks. (nps.gov)
May 11, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - As the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service nears, a coalition of civil rights and conservation groups is calling for public lands to be more inclusive over the next century.

The coalition has started a petition urging President Obama to issue an executive order to make public lands more diverse. Maite Arce, president of the Hispanic Access Foundation, said the coalition has the legacy of public lands in mind with this petition.

"Our work here as a coalition is to challenge this president, and also our next president, to really embrace a vision for the next century of conservation that focuses on the importance of national parks and public lands for all Americans," she said, "with emphasis on all."

Eight of Maryland's 24 local jurisdictions are sites for national parks, including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Hampton National Historic Site, Thomas Stone National Historic Site and Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.

Arce said hiring a diverse workforce in the parks, in order to hear from diverse voices, is key to making public lands more inclusive.

"There's always been for many years a discussion about the difficulty in reaching diverse communities," she said, "but without those individuals working on these lands and for our parks, it's really going to be difficult to develop programming that reaches and engages different populations."

Shantha Ready Alonso, executive director of Creation Justice Ministries, an environmental justice group that represents major Christian denominations, said there should be more protections for the sacred parts of public lands.

"Right now, too many places where there are petroglyphs, or we know that there are graves, are being ravaged and disturbed because they're under-protected and under-recognized," she said. "We would like to see more reverence for those types of places."

The petition is online along with policy recommendations at change.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD