Columbia Land Trust has historically viewed being a nature-serving organization as having a mission divorced from issues of equity and social justice. Today, we recognize that these issues are inextricably linked. We acknowledge that we have been slow to elevate equity as a core organizational value. We can and should do better.
We recognize that exclusion and displacement are woven into the history of the American conservation movement. The foundation of conservation work, land ownership, is a vehicle through which institutionalized racism consolidates power and furthers inequities. Today, communities of color and underserved communities are disproportionately burdened by the adverse impacts of land use and environmental policy decisions. By failing to acknowledge these inequities in the past, we play a role in perpetuating them in the present.
We also recognize that our organization does not represent the current diversity of the Columbia River region. If we wish to remain relevant, grow more effective, and garner broader support for conservation, we must become more culturally responsive. Solving the daunting challenges facing our environment will require new ideas, collaboration, and unique perspectives. A more diverse, inclusive conservation movement is a stronger, more innovative movement.
Moving forward, Columbia Land Trust is firmly committed to becoming a more culturally responsive organization.
Specifically, we are committed to:
- Fostering an inclusive environment; embracing differences and ensuring that any individual or group feels a sense of belonging; feels respected and valued, and feels a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that they can do their best work.
- Developing an equity lens through a deep analysis and recognition of the role past conservation efforts have historically played in creating barriers to equitable conservation. We commit to applying this lens to our policies, practices, and procedures, and to removing barriers to access.
- Engaging local communities of color in decision-making, and working on building deeper relationships. We will work together to identify barriers and organizational intersections.
- Training our staff on inclusive communication and interrupting oppression. We are also committed to providing education and awareness around institutional racism, as well as historical and persisting inequities pertaining to conservation, land ownership, and environmental impacts within our service area.
- Actively supporting policy priorities benefitting diverse communities and communities of color. When we consider supporting conservation policies, we will work to acknowledge and better understand their equity implications.
- Maintaining a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee that is active and provides continuous learning opportunities, and holds the organization accountable.
- Shifting our staff and board to be more representative of the growing diversity of people in the Columbia River region.
- Serving as a resource for other conservation groups, knowing that we are imperfect and that we have a long journey ahead of us.
- Taking risks and challenging ourselves.