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two boys walking on a path through trees

Equity and Accessibility.

Working in land conservation for the past six years, I’ve heard these terms used with increasing frequency within our sphere.

It comes as no surprise, as one of the largest social justice movements in our nation’s history has been simmering over the last decade, coming to a full rolling boil in 2020. These “dueling pandemics” of climate change, racial injustice, unequal access to public services and goods, and public health have encouraged groups to double down on their efforts, begin rewriting their values statements, and more.

My inquisitive nature, aided by the vast expanse of information on the internet, led me to look up how often the words “equity” and “accessibility” appear in written works. Shown graphically below, our sector’s trends seem to fall in line with the written word. Both words show steady increases since the 1960s, as we’ve seen civil rights movements and action grow.

I infer that their continued increase to the present day demonstrates the adoption of “equity” and “accessibility” into the mainstream lexicon, especially as legislation has supported these values over the decades – one example being the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 – and the correlated uptick in the use of “accessibility”.

This little mental excursion was spurred on by two thoughts:

  1. How ‘new’ are these terms, really?
  2. How quickly words transform into jargon – and how that jargon can begin to feel alienating

The words may feel foreign and unfamiliar, but the concepts should not. 

Just as we land conservationists can quickly seem intimidating by our alphabet soup of acronyms and use of scientific terms, when we enter into an area that isn’t our expertise, the roles suddenly reverse.

This discussion came up frequently during our Northeast CT Land Trust Advancement Initiative – where we discussed these concepts of equity and accessibility with the goal of the participating land trusts feeling more confident and emboldened to connect with diverse audiences in their communities.

There was an initial uneasiness about saying the “right thing” or if they knew enough to begin testing the waters. Our advice to them – just start. 

As part of this Advancement Initiative, the Northern CT Land Trust will be undertaking a new trail project to engage families with young kids and folks who are looking for a more level and slow-paced stroll through the woods.

Their inspiration came from recognizing what they lacked, a trail that can be navigated and shared with people of all ages and abilities.

My challenge to you is the same – look around, assess where your land trust is now, determine what gaps can be filled. Just start. 

Rebecca Dahl
Program Manager
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P.S. Always happy to chat or brainstorm more on this topic and how it relates to YOUR land trust!