“Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
Our state constitution is clear -- Pennsylvania state parks and forests belong to everyone.
However, according to an Outdoor Industry Association report (PDF), only 33 percent of Black people participate in outdoor recreation activities, compared to 50 percent of White people.
In another study about Americans’ relationship with nature, researchers found that more than half of Black adults say the outdoors is unsafe as a barrier to their interests in nature.
But that is changing! Several programs are working in Pennsylvania to encourage people of color, especially the Black community, to get outside and enjoy and appreciate the abundance of the commonwealth’s natural places.
Let’s Go Outdoors
Sisters Keisha and Tarsha Scovens founded Let’s Go Outdoors in Philadelphia to connect city communities to outdoor experiences.
As Black women, they know people of color are under-represented in the conservation world, and seek to change that through their local and regional programs.
If a young person experiences the outdoors with a family member, they are more likely to continue to engage in the great outdoors in their adulthood. As mothers, Keisha and Tarsha take this message to heart and are passionate for other caregivers to aim for the same.
Let’s Go Outdoors, through their non-profit affiliate Urban Outdoors Initiatives, is launching a new pipeline program called Conservation Careers 101 with some funding from DCNR.
This pilot aims to foster the next generation of conservationists through lessons, field experiences, and connections to job opportunities in the conservation and outdoor recreation field.
Environmental lessons supplement classroom work, and field trips to local environmental sites bring those lessons to life. This “next step” serves as a pipeline for youth of color to launch into conservation careers.
The unique program, operating in Philadelphia, is currently engaging 56 youth with a goal of impacting 150 by 2020.
Recently, the group visited Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center to learn about snowshoeing, forest conservation and stewardship, and about environmental career opportunities.
Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoor Partners
Todd Pride of Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoor Partners has introduced more than 11,000 diverse youth -- our next generation’s stewards -- to outdoor resources in southeastern Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
The organization’s core work has been introducing and training students and their supporting adults in fishing, boating, hunting heritage, archery, wildlife education, agriculture, and conservation -- with a mission focus of training in the “STEM path to college” through these activities.
Todd says one of the biggest barriers to introducing more youth and families to the outdoors and conservation activities is the ethnic, cultural, and gender connection of organizations to the communities they are targeting.
Outdoor activities are personal and social, so building community connections for long-term participation is key. “As a minority-led organization, the Mid-Atlantic team is intentionally diverse...because we want to look like the communities we serve, and realize this is important to getting more youth and families into fishing, hunting, conservation and outdoors activities.”
The Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoor Partners has made the connection of education and health benefits to the outdoors with the groups they work with, which has opened doors to outdoor activities in a way that may not have been -- with the demands youth and families have with their time.
Generations Yet to Come
We at DCNR applaud these efforts to inspire current and future generations of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts.
Our mission to conserve and sustain Pennsylvania’s natural resources for present and future generations’ use and enjoyment depends on making these connections for all Pennsylvanians.
DCNR also is taking action to ensure its lands are accessible to all, to provide inclusive and equitable programs and services, and to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. Learn more about DCNR’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan (PDF).