All Americans have a stake in our wild places and everyone should get the same chance to enjoy them, no matter how much money you have or where you’re from. We are addressing barriers that prevent low-income communities and people of color from experiencing the outdoors, including by helping to provide access to public lands and training the diverse conservation leaders of the future.
Our Urban to Wild work helps make public lands more inclusive and aims to fully realize our mission of inspiring Americans to care for our wild places. This work is focused on three regions: Albuquerque, Los Angeles and Seattle. Each region presents unique challenges and opportunities based on scale, geography, history, demographics, investments and shifts in policy.
Our staff is engaged in programs and initiatives aimed at breaking down barriers to public lands from community parks to vast open space. We are currently working on the following efforts:
- Transit to Trails: In urban areas, accessing parks and open spaces can be a challenge. To help address this in Seattle, we partnered with King County to launch a first-of-its-kind shuttle service called Trailhead Direct. Trailhead Direct provides transportation from downtown Seattle to more than 150 miles of hiking trails in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The shuttle service helps people who are dependent on public transportation enjoy nature, while also aiding those seeking to become less reliant on their cars.
Similarly, in Los Angeles, we launched “Route 88” in partnership with Pasadena Transit to take people from Memorial Park in Pasadena to the Echo Mountain Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains. This service helped increase access to open space across the region and created a unique transit hub where people can access urban Los Angeles, outlying suburbs and mountain hiking trails through a single stop.
- Conservation leadership: In addition to improving access to nature, we are engaging and training young conservationists in urban areas, particularly within low-income communities of color, to grow the next generation of public land advocates. In Southern California, our Nature for All Leadership Academy is making sure young people are equipped with the knowledge and organizing skills they need to be civically engaged and advocate for the protection of public lands. Efforts are underway to replicate this successful model in other Urban to Wild areas.
- Advocating for parks and open space: To make parks and open spaces truly inclusive and equitable, it will require systemic changes bourne out by meaningful public investment. In Los Angeles County, voters approved a a million annual tax measure to invest in parks, open space, trails and other investments. As part of a local advisory committee, TWS works to ensure these resources go to the areas most in need. We are also working to pass Proposition 68, which will provide funding to create and improve access to parks and open space across California.
Proposition 68, represents a major investment in healthy recreation and a clean environment. Climate change and years of neglect have threatened many of California's most critical natural resources, from city parks to beaches, wildlands, forests and rivers. Prop 68 provides millions of dollars to keep toxic pollution out of the state’s water supply, increase wildfire and flood prevention, and restore and conserve open spaces, ensuring all Californians have greater opportunity to get outside and play.
Supporters come from many backgrounds – each understanding the connection between access to nature and healthy communities. Here are a few of their stories:
- Gerardo Jimenez – Intern, Baldwin Hills Restoration Leadership Program
- Scott Chan – Program Director, API Forward Movement
- Tafarai Bayne - Chief Strategist/Commissioner CicLAvia, LA Department of Transportation
- Eleanor Osgood – Volunteer, Audubon Society
In Seattle and Albuquerque, our staff is engaged in land conservation and open space planning efforts. In Seattle, the King County Land Conservation Initiative provides a unique opportunity to protect King County’s high priority conservation lands within the next generation, resulting in at least 65,000 acres of protected.
- Community partnerships: Our organization is proud to support the work of various grassroots partners in our Urban to Wild regions. These partnerships allow us to engage in deep, meaningful dialogue and activities that help us strengthen the conservation movement and deepen our impact across the country.
The Wilderness Society believes public lands belong to and should benefit all of us. Our organization and work must embody the cultures and perspectives of people and communities across our nation, and connect and inspire people to care about the outdoors.