A Message About Justice from Wisconsin’s Green Fire
WI Green Fire, June 9, 2020
We believe we can speak for all of us at Wisconsin’s Green Fire in stating our shared outrage and sadness over the killing of George Floyd by law enforcement in Minneapolis. The monumental response by citizens in overwhelmingly peaceful protests all over the country and the world has brought into relief, once again, the long and deep patterns of violence, injustice, and inequities that are especially faced by African Americans, Native Americans, and people of color in America.
As individuals, and as an organization, we’re all challenged today to ask: what do these historic events mean for us, and what do they demand from us?
At first glance it would be easy to conclude that as an organization dedicated to science and conservation, racial inequity and historic oppression might be important social issues, but not our issues. After a moment’s reflection, it’s also easy to see however that race, racism, equity, and justice are foundational issues for every part of our society and if we are sincere about creating positive change, all of us must share in that work.
Most of us who’ve made careers in natural resources have worked in homogeneous professions in which women were under-represented and people of color were barely represented at all. Like many conservation organizations, WGF has also reflected those trends and we recognize that people of color and many communities with strong interests in conservation still do not have a seat at our collective table.
It seems clear that the legacies of injustice and racism have affected our work in conservation in ways many of us may never have realized, in part because we may never have seen the people and opportunities that have simply been missing.
WGF’s founders recognized environmental justice as an essential tenet. Our founding principles assert our belief in the rights of all groups of people to a clean and healthy environment and to outdoor recreation. Our early years have been full of our best intentions, but now we must examine how we can truly align our efforts for the critical aspiration of inclusion and justice. How can we do better?
How can we build meaningful partnerships and help promote environmental health and conservation for everyone? What implicit and explicit biases affect our choices of the issues we focus on? How can we help grow the future of our professions, including the recruitment of new generations, so they reflect our diversity as a state and a society? How can we better serve residents in our urban communities?
These are all questions we’ve been considering and our Board of Directors has reaffirmed the importance of this work. In the coming months you’ll be seeing more discussion within WGF on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ll be asking in our writing and in our programs how these values can inform our work and how they affect the people whose lives depend on healthy, resilient natural resources– that’s all of us.
We’ll be looking to learn from others– across cultures and across generations– to expand understanding about the ways in which biases and inequities affect outcomes in conservation. And we’ll be looking for the places and issues where we can engage, sometimes beyond our comfort zones, with humility and a desire to be of service, whatever that might look like.
We almost certainly won’t be alone, and we’ll find many reasons to be glad we took the journey. Stay tuned.
As always and more than ever, we thank you for all you do.
Michael Cain, Board of Directors
Fred Clark, Executive Director
Terry Daulton, President, Board of Directors
Ron Eckstein, Secretary, Board of Directors
Bob Gurda, Treasurer, Board of Directors
Paul Heinen, Legislative Liaison
Tom Jerow, Board of Directors
Nancy Larson, Assistant Director
Paul LaLiberte, Board of Directors
Ruth Ann Lee, Administrative Coordinator
Bob Martini, Board of Directors
Mike Meyer, Board of Directors
Jim Perry, Vice President, Board of Directors
Kate Reilly, Board of Directors
Shannon Thielman, Board of Directors
Sarah Wilkins, Science Director