At the beginning of the year, CLCC introduced two new advancement initiatives aligned with our goal of focusing land trusts on their organizational culture and providing opportunities to meet diverse audiences for the shared mission of building healthier and more sustainable communities.
While we plan to continue working in these regions to make improvements in regards to equity and access, (and recognize that this work is never truly done) we are winding down the first phase of these two “sister projects” in the Northeast corner and in New London County.
Through our dialogue sessions with land trusts in our Northeast CT Land Trust Advancement Initiative, among many topics, we touched on the barriers land trusts face in meeting their mission of “conservation in perpetuity” and the need for them to broaden their reach to include a variety of ages, backgrounds, and races. We also examined the experiences that people of color, and in particular, the experiences that Black people have in nature – recalling the harassment of Christian Cooper, a Black birder in Central Park just a year ago.
In the meantime, we also connected directly with a variety of community organizations in New London County through a series of roundtable discussions. Many of these groups are addressing equitable housing in the region and the needs of those experiencing homelessness.
One sentiment in particular stuck out as we discussed the ways in which the land conservation movement can support and coincide with these groups: no matter who you are, no matter where you live, we all want to have the opportunity to enjoy nature without facing any negative consequences.
Our new colleagues in New London expressed this concern as many of the people within the city and/or those experiencing homelessness have few opportunities to sit in a public space, get some fresh air, and feel the grass beneath their feet. This is due to the combination of a lack of open space in their area and the reality that we as a society have a tendency to target individuals who “seem out of place”.
As conservationists, we know the peace and joy that nature brings to people. I believe it is our ethical responsibility to ensure a future where all people – regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, age or sexuality – can experience that joy without fear.
It is not enough to provide open space. We must cultivate green spaces that ensure comfort, safety, and solace.
I encourage you to consider the ways your land trust can make strides towards this goal. If you’re looking to brainstorm, I’m all ears!