BY MICHAEL J. BEAN AND JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS – 01/12/17 03:40 PM EST
This report was originally published in The Hill.
All through history, our public lands — like national parks, forests, monuments and other areas – have played an essential function as portion of America’s identity. The word public is meant to anxiety the concept of accessibility and connection to all the men and women of this country.
Unfortunately, these lands have not constantly been reflective of our country’s demographic and ethnic diversity and there are a lot of communities in the U.S. for whom the term public does not resonate in the exact same vein.
This disconnect is becoming more apparent as the face of our nation continues to alter at a rapid pace and its consequences more urgent due to the fact the future of our public lands will rely upon public support from ever more diverse communities.
If we are to hold correct to the notion that public lands are truly for all Americans, then we must expand what that notion means for the a lot of diverse cultures and communities that make up America these days. We require to discover what the suggestions of wilderness, protected spaces, national parks and open spaces mean to diverse communities?
What do they mean to young individuals living in Compton who face the every day reality of developing up in an economically disadvantaged community? What do they mean to the Mixtec migrant household working the fields of the California Central Valley, or to the Islamic neighborhood in Dearborn, Michigan? What do they mean to the Gwich’in folks of Alaska and the Lakota of the Dakotas who have ancestral ties to the land? The Gullah Gullah folks of the Carolinas? What about the communities of Japanese ancestry in the Northwest and the Tijuana colonias along the US-Mexico border?
There are those that say our public lands are there for any person that wants to access them. That misses the point. This is not a basic matter of equality of access — it is a challenge with equity of access.
Our public lands are meant both to supply a diversity of open spaces for recreational activities and to preserve and share the cultural heritage and story of this nation. As such, our public lands need to be a tapestry woven of the several strands that represent the diversity of this country. In them we must not only see natural and historical monuments, the grandeur of the outdoors and the history of our nation — we need to also clearly see ourselves.
We need to expand the diversity of the people who check out and function in America’s national parks, monuments and other public lands to reflect the faces of our nation. We should continue to boost the diversity of the internet sites protected and stories told to allow the public to connect to their public lands – be it for overall health, spiritual, economic or cultural advantages.
This is the activity ahead of us. We have had Manzanar National Historic Internet site, Timuacan Ecological & Historic Preserve, Bandelier National Monument, and other such sites. To that we have added locations like Cesar Chavez National Monument, Stonewall National Monument and several much more.
The opportunity is to expand beyond these, so that no matter if it is in the open spaces of Wyoming or the urban atmosphere of Chicago, communities of all backgrounds see themselves as belonging there and see how the technique of public lands is connected to inform the stories of all Americans.
These values of inclusion are shared across celebration lines and President-elect Donald Trump has expressed his commitment to keeping public lands in public hands and to serving as fantastic stewards of this land. If President-elect Trump and the new members of Congress continue the function of making all people feel welcome in our public lands, the goal of united Americans will be furthered. Together we can make confident that our public lands in the next one hundred years appreciate care, protection, and assistance by an American public that sees itself respected, reflected, and incorporated in them.
Michael J. Bean is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Division of the Interior. He is the author of The Evolution of National Wildlife Law, usually regarded as to be the definitive text on the topic of wildlife conservation law in the United States. José González is the Founder/Director of Latino Outdoors, a Latino-led network of leaders committed to engaging Latinos/as in the outdoors, and connecting families and youth with nature.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.