Next 100 Coalition Urges Interior Secretary to Reconsider His Views Disparaging Diversity
Interior Manages Sites, Like Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Critical to Our Nation’s History, Diversity
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2018 — The Next 100 Coalition urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reconsider his position that “diversity isn’t important” for the department, which manages public lands and monuments critical to the heritage and history of all Americans. The Coalition, which represents 50 civil rights, environmental justice, conservation, and community organizations, said diversity is an essential principle and asset for the U.S. Department of the Interior to create a more equitable and inclusive federal land management system.
“In a nation that will soon be more than fifty percent people of color, to argue that diversity is not important to public lands puts the future of those lands in grave jeopardy,” said Kevin Bryan, coordinator of the Next 100 Coalition. “The Next 100 Coalition has worked for more than two years to promote more diverse and inclusive management of our public lands. Secretary Zinke — whose agency manages sites like the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and Bears Ears National Monument — should reconsider the critical importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in shaping the department’s policies, programs, and workforce. In order to secure our public lands for future generations, the Department of the Interior needs to work in collaboration with a diverse array of stakeholders and value their perspectives.”
The national media reported this week that Zinke has repeatedly stated to employees that the Department of the Interior, under his management, will no longer focus on diversity issues, saying “diversity isn’t important,” or “I don’t care about diversity,” or “I don’t really think that’s important anymore.”
The Coalition has previously invited Zinke to work with leaders from civil rights, environmental justice, conservation, and community organizations to make public lands more inclusive and accessible to all Americans.
Zinke’s statements run counter to a presidential memorandum the Coalition championed that prioritizes ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to experience and enjoy our public lands and waters, that all segments of the population have the chance to engage in decisions about how our lands and waters are managed, and that our Federal workforce is drawn from the rich range of the diversity in our Nation.
The Coalition’s Vision
Throughout history, our public lands — including national parks, forests, waters, wetlands monuments and other areas — have played an important role in shaping America’s identity. Unfortunately, these lands have not always accurately reflected the true nature of our country’s demographic and ethnic diversity and contributions. This disconnect is becoming more apparent as the face of our country continues to change at a rapid pace and more urgent because the future of our public lands will depend upon public support from all people.
Without a broad base of support, we are at risk of losing the historic, cultural, natral, spiritual, economic and recreational resources that our public lands currently provide and of missing opportunities to identify and conserve other valuable resources for future generations.
The Coalition is driven by three guiding principles: 1) respect for the diverse cultures of our land; 2) active engagement of all people in the management and use of that land; and 3) reflection of the histories and experiences of all our nation’s people. We envision a public lands and conservation workforce that reflects the growing diversity of our nation, both in rank-and-file positions in throughout leadership ranks; abundant opportunities for people, especially those from marginalized communities, to enjoy nature and outdoor recreation, through federal public lands, state parks, and city open space; and the establishment of public lands that reflect the diverse culture and experiences of our people, and respect and uplift our collective experience in America.
“Our national monuments, marine protected areas, and public lands are the storytellers of the shared histories and the diverse communities that make this country great… Conserving our natural, cultural, historical, and spiritual heritage through our public lands and waters system is a core value of our country, one that brings all people together. The protection of our national monuments in their current status is critical to not only telling a more complete story of America, but ensuring that future generations can learn and enjoy these places as well.” — Next 100 Coalition