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Earth Day 50 Series: Diversity for Sustainability

February 19, 2020 12:00 AM

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​Earth Day turns 50 this year, with a national theme of climate action. Once a month this year the Good Natured blog is featuring a solution in recognition of the need to act to address this environmental challenge facing people, wildlife, and the planet.

Diversity Imbalances in Conservation and Park Agencies

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As Pennsylvania’s conservation leader, DCNR is taking action to ensure a commonwealth that is resilient to a changing climate.

Maintaining the state’s natural resources can only be strengthened by diverse thinking that comes with the differing perspectives of education, life experiences, and economic status.

A lack of diversity among staff and visitors is not uncommon in the conservation and environmental community.

At DCNR, the workforce is 75 percent male, and 97 percent white, remaining largely unchanged for the past 20 years.

DCNR’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan and Coordinator


Making the department’s staff and visitors more reflective of all Pennsylvanians is a top priority. To that end, DCNR has a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategy (PDF), and a statement to guide its work:

To conserve and maintain Pennsylvania’s public natural resources for the benefit of all people, including generations yet to come, we will take intentional action to ensure DCNR lands are accessible to all, provide inclusive and equitable programs and services, and recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

In May 2019, DCNR appointed its first DEI Coordinator to work across the agency and with partners to focus on improving diversity, equity, inclusion on public lands; through grants and contracting; in communications; and in training, recruiting, and retaining its workforce.

Coordinator Emily Hendrickson had most recently served as DCNR’s William Penn Fellow, and previously worked on project management for a behavioral health foundation, clean water advocacy, clinical HIV research, and as a park ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park.

She holds a Master of Social Work in community organizing/social administration and a Master of Public Health in behavioral and community health sciences from Pitt, focusing on environmental justice and how the health of the environment affects the health of the community.

Actions to Better Serve All Pennsylvanians

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Over the past two years, DCNR has taken actions that will set the stage for the long term, including:

  • Completing a first round of agency-wide DEI training, reaching more 1,600 employees. Further training to continually improve staff understanding of DEI is being planned.

  • Launching an employee mentor program to improve employee retention and help welcome new staff to the agency. Thirty-two new and seasoned staff were paired, either as professional or peer mentors, to help navigate organizational culture and foster inter-bureau cooperation.

  • Creating its first DEI action plan, with each bureau in the department committing to actionable objectives to be completed in 2020.

  • Using GIS data to examine grant funding compared to environmental justice areas to make sure funds are distributed equitably.

This year, DCNR’s DEI work will focus on:

  • Creating a diverse youth council to advise the agency on ways to better connect with young people and navigate issues like climate change affecting the next generation.

  • Working to enhance interpretive programming at state parks and forests to be more culturally relevant and inclusive.

  • Studying DCNR job descriptions and classifications to remove barriers for applicants and encourage cooperation and mobility across bureaus.

  • Working to implement a recruitment plan focusing on outreach to underrepresented groups.

Have an idea about how DCNR can become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive? Send it in through the online DCNR Contact Us form, or call Emily Hendrickson at 717-772-9101.

The EarthDay50PA website has more information about celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

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