TRCP’s Commitment to Making the Outdoors—and Our Workplace—More Inclusive, Equitable, and Diverse
We stand with Black sportsmen and women as we examine our role in creating change as a conservation nonprofit
As protests take place in cities across our nation and headlines about justice for racial equity and the loss of Black lives fill our newsfeeds, it’s impossible not to reflect on our own attitudes, biases, and actions. This is particularly important to do personally as a white male who has never experienced any form of racism and, in fact, has benefited because of the color of my skin and gender.
For members of the hunting, fishing, and conservation community, these times also demand that we look critically at the world we inhabit and ask whether we want to be a part of the problem or part of the solution.
Hunting and fishing in this country should be as egalitarian as any aspect of life in America. Unlike in other countries, our North American Model of Conservation has seven key tenets, including that all Americans have the right to hunt and fish, and fish and game are owned by the people, not the government, corporations, or individuals. We have more than 640 million acres of federal lands that are owned by all Americans and are open for hunting and fishing unless they are specifically closed. We have laws designed to ensure that we have clean water, healthy habitats, and plentiful fish and wildlife.
However, racism within our community threatens the North American Model and the future relevance of hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation, just like it does all other aspects of society. Don’t believe me? Look at what happened to Christian Cooper as he was birdwatching in Central Park. Read Chad Brown’s article in Hatch magazine, or listen to Durrell Smith’s interview on The Flush Podcast.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s mission is to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. ALL Americans. In no way do I emphasize those words to discount the current and much-needed focus on #BlackLivesMatter, but rather to underscore that the important work of addressing systemic racism in outdoor spaces and the outdoor industry is intrinsic to our organizational goals. We must resolve to serve as allies and drive change for Black Americans in our community. We must also ensure that Hispanics and Latinos, women, and other underrepresented communities feel welcome in hunting and fishing and safe when enjoying these activities.
The absence of this safe and welcoming environment all but guarantees we will never achieve our mission. To turn a blind eye to the shortcomings in our world is not only morally wrong, it jeopardizes the future relevance of hunting, fishing, and conservation.
So, what can we do to effect change? We need to listen and learn. We need to examine our own biases and accept honest feedback. We must admit what we don’t know and that we haven’t yet done enough. To be sure, plenty of difficult, uncomfortable work lies ahead of us.
Organizationally, we want to be transparent about the journey we’re on, shed light on the challenges we face, and publicly reaffirm our commitment to help build a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse hunting and fishing community.
Several years ago, we saw a need to respond to changing trends in the hunting and fishing community and society at large. Hunting and fishing numbers were declining, and America was and still is shifting to become more culturally and racially diverse.
At that time, we launched an effort to understand and engage with the Hispanic community. To that end, we developed a partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation. Last year we hired a Hispanic outreach coordinator and then we hosted our first ever Hispanic Sportsmen and Women’s Summit, and we are currently working with state fish and wildlife agencies to help direct resources where they can be used to reduce barriers to entry for new Hispanic hunters and anglers.
Internally, we drafted a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plan for the TRCP. The plan reflects the voices of our leadership team and staff at every level, and it focuses our immediate work on achieving tangible outcomes where we have direct control, like the representation of our board and staff. We’ve done initial staff and board training on DEI.
Have no doubt that this is only a start. Our DEI plan will serve as a living, breathing document and will remain open to improvement and refinement over time. This work will be a journey, not a destination. We will make mistakes along the way, but we will learn from these missteps.
In the meantime, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership stands with our Black members, partners, and staff. We recognize that we cannot achieve our mission until we address the obstacles that Black and other people of color face while hunting and fishing. As we do this, we welcome your honest feedback—and we are listening.
Top photo by Aaron Burden.
TRCP Challenges Hunters and Anglers to Take the #ResponsibleRecreation Pledge
Sportsmen and women step up to safeguard the privilege of enjoying our country’s natural resources
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to help launch the #ResponsibleRecreation pledge, which encourages Americans to enjoy outdoor recreation while adhering to proper COVID-19 safety protocols.
The coordinated campaign was created with respected conservation leaders at the National Wild Turkey Federation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
These groups are encouraging Americans to take advantage of our country’s numerous opportunities to recreate on public lands and waters, while maintaining proper social distancing and adhering to other best practices in line with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Whether participating in hunting, fishing, shooting sports, or numerous other outdoor activities, individuals and families are getting outside as a means of coping with the challenges of this health crisis,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “The conservation community recognizes that this is a privilege, one that sportsmen and women take very seriously. Just as we’ve stepped up to fund conservation efforts and recover at-risk species, hunters and anglers have yet another opportunity to lead by example and ensure that outdoor recreation can continue to delight and facilitate healing for anyone who ventures outside.”
Outdoor television personalities, gear makers, and conservation-minded decision-makers are already embracing the pledge.
“As parts of the country are beginning to reopen and the weather warms up, we will see growing numbers of Americans spend more time in the great outdoors,” says Congressman Marc Veasey. “As an avid sportsman myself, I am eager to get back outside, but in a way that will not accelerate the spread of COVID-19. That means practicing responsible recreation by continuing to socially distance, wear appropriate face coverings when needed, and follow proper health guidelines to protect our fellow Americans.”
While many of the organizations involved in spearheading the #ResponsibleRecreation pledge have their own interests—namely, hunting, fishing, or shooting sports—the hope is to engage anyone who enjoys the outdoors safely and responsibly. Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to share how they are recreating responsibly, challenge their friends to do the same, and use the campaign hashtag across social media.
“Now more than ever, Americans want to recreate outdoors for the health, physical, and social benefits,” says Jessica Wahl Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “As our country begins to reopen, we encourage outdoor enthusiasts to continue practicing social distancing, respect the communities you visit, and follow the health guidelines applicable to your activities. If we work together to steward the outdoors and keep safety top of mind, we can help our public lands and waters remain open and get our recreation economy and jobs back on track.”
The TRCP will also ask those who take the pledge to reach out to their national decision-makers in support of legislation that can improve outdoor recreation infrastructure across the country. Visit the TRCP action center for the most pressing opportunities for advocacy.
Looking Back on a Successful Season
In 2019, conservation provided fertile common ground for smart policymaking
Today, Washington is known more for acrimony and partisanship over policy than for achievement. Yet amidst all this noise and dysfunction, conservation—and the TRCP—had an amazing year in 2019.
Early in the year, Congress passed S. 47, a massive public lands bill that, among other things, protected key lands and waters and permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a critical conservation tool. It also clarified that all federal lands are open to hunting and fishing unless they are specifically closed through a public and transparent process.
Soon after, Congress passed legislation to manage water scarcity in the Colorado River and ramp up research on chronic wasting disease. Migrating animals got a helping hand in the Senate Highway Bill, thanks to a $250-million pilot program to build wildlife-friendly roadway crossings and aquatic connectivity projects. Lawmakers also invested in the next generation of hunters by modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Act.
On the administrative front, the Department of Interior made it harder to dispose of federal lands that are important for public access and outdoor recreation. And the Department of Commerce shut down the Atlantic menhaden fishery after Omega Protein—the only company that still practices industrial reduction fishing of this key forage species—decided to ignore federal catch limits.
The TRCP and its 60 formal partners played a key role in these victories and many others, proving once again that the voice of sportsmen and women transcends politics. Our annual report explores these accomplishments.
Hunting, fishing, and conservation have never been partisan issues. But today, a profound appreciation for the outdoors provides common ground for policymakers across the political spectrum to tackle some of our top priorities.
There are still many challenges, such as efforts to legitimize the overfishing of menhaden, roll back the Clean Water Act, or mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. But our united front, and that of sportsmen and women across the country, is proving to be a formidable force for good.
Thank you for your enduring support.
Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO
Rod Nelson, Board Chair
Top photo by Kyle Mlynar.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA
As our nation rebounds from the COVID pandemic, policymakers are considering significant investments in infrastructure. Hunters and anglers see this as an opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations.Learn More