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Black Lives Matter and Social Justice: Three Statements

Black Lives Matter and Social Justice: Three Statements

From the Great Basin Institute:

The Great Basin Institute supports the Black community regarding ongoing protests against injustice and systemic racism. GBI stands in solidarity with other natural resource groups that have spoken out on this issue and, more importantly, we stand with Black people that have worked with us past, present, and future. It is their basic right to live and it is our constant duty to give them safe, supportive spaces in which to do so. When Black people are met with unjust anger while birdwatching in our public parks, unfounded suspicion while trying to conduct fieldwork, and brutality for small or non-existent offenses, we must do better. As an organization that prides itself on our professional development, dedicates itself to helping develop the next generation of natural resource professionals, and strives to be diverse in every demographic possible, we must do more. We cannot stay silent. Black Lives Matter.

In 2003, the National Park Service published the results of a study conducted among the adults of 3,515 households across all seven NPS Regions. When asked if they had visited a National Park managed land in the past two years, “36% of white non-Hispanics, … 27% of Hispanic Americans, and 13% of African Americans” said they had. [1] A second NPS study published in 2009 found these numbers had increased to 52.6% of white non-Hispanic, 32.2% of Hispanic, and 28.0% of Black Americans surveyed. [2] A separate study examining the lack of ethnic minorities in ecology and evolutionary biology published in February 2020 found, “sense of belonging in EEB [ecology and evolutionary biology] was especially low among African Americans relative to Whites.” [3] The factors the study listed as contributing to this decreased sense of belonging were, among systemic educational disadvantages, “less exposure to ecology, fewer same-race role models, [and] discomfort in outdoor environments,” which contributed to the 2014 statistic: “African Americans earned less than 1.8% of the Ph.D.’s awarded in EEB-related subfields (Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Botany, Entomology, Marine Biology, Wildlife Biology, Zoology…).” With these fields informing humanity as a whole about a topic no smaller than the world we all inhabit, representation is vital. To hear that Black people in the United States are not only socioeconomically at a disadvantage entering STEM fields but also feel they are not welcome, do not belong, and are even unsafe in these incredibly important fields is and should be heartbreaking. We need their voices and their experiences now more than ever to ensure natural resource management and conservation is not conducted against their favor, as it has in the past and into the present. Yet, it is difficult to ask them to stand up for these issues when they still have to protest for their very right to live. We must do better. We must do more.

Below, please find sources to the studies referenced as well as Black groups working in ecological, conservation, and general STEM arenas to lift up the underprivileged and make sure their voices are part of this conversation. From today forward, we will do more to listen to and promote these groups. We hope you do the same.

[1] Solop, Frederic I., et al Ethnic and Racial Diversity of National Park System Visitors and Non- Visitors Technical Report. NPS Social Science Program, 2003, Ethnic and Racial Diversity of National Park System Visitors and Non- Visitors Technical Report.

[2] Taylor, Patricia A., Burke D. Grandjean, and Bistra Anatchkova. 2011. National Park Service comprehensive survey of the American public, 2008–2009: National Technical Report. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/SSD/NRR—2011/295. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

[3] O’Brien, L.T., Bart, H.L. & Garcia, D.M. Why are there so few ethnic minorities in ecology and evolutionary biology? Challenges to inclusion and the role of sense of belonging. Soc Psychol Educ 23, 449–477 (2020).

Outdoor Afro


Black AF In STEM (home of #BlackBirdersWeek)


National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)

National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE)

Black Girls Code

Make It Work Nevada

Northern Nevada Black Cultural Awareness Society…/

Colorado Association of Black Professional Engineers and Scientists (CABPES)


From Jerry Keir, Executive Director, to the staff of the Great Basin Institute:

Dear GBI Staff,

Tens of thousands of demonstrators amassed in cities during the second weekend of protests that has shown the depth of feeling worldwide over the death of George Floyd.  Across the globe, people have observed in silence this tragedy, and the enormous scale of this movement reflects the collective pain that underwrites the need for change here in the US and abroad.

As an organization, the Institute must evolve our thinking and practice.  As a quasi-governmental entity, we are part of the institutional framework that remains ineffectual in addressing the complex issues of race, justice and inequality.  Our efforts need to be assessed, revised, and re-doubled.  There can be no future form of GBI without specific investments and interventions made by our programs.

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds,” wrote Aldo Leopold. “Much of the damage inflicted is invisible to the laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

I have always been struck by these words for their prescience.  Leopold anticipated the profound remove society would achieve and foretold the obligations of environmental justice and social responsibility.  As global BLM demonstrations give voice for the disenfranchised, we become witness to a cultural moment that should bring momentum and resilience to our work.  I ask that you now support an inclusive, results-driven process to set a path forward.

As we safely deploy our seasonal workforce, we will hold a series of organizational meetings to consider our next steps.  While we prepare, please review provided resources to help initiate these discussions.  Also, please feel free to contact me directly should you wish to discuss our preliminary efforts.

Thank you in advance for your support of GBI and our community,



From Jerry Keir, Executive Director, June 3, 2020:

This week Institute leadership met with local stakeholders in the southern Sierra Nevada to better understand and integrate Native American stewardship values in forest health initiatives. We heard from tribal elders whose families for generations used fire to manage the land. Prior to European colonization, indigenous peoples used controlled burns to replenish the landscape and maintain wildlife habitat as they sustained their cultures and economies. We are now trying to remember this tribal wisdom which they often shared but we have long forgotten.

As we work together to address the threat of wildfire in the mountains, other fires continue to violently erupt across our cities. Social injustice and economic inequality remain alarmingly unaddressed, and like our national forests, it is hard to even take measure of the scale and scope of the problem. There are deep divisions that continue to prevent mutual understanding. Incendiary racial tension will persist without honest, immediate resolution. There will and should be no peace without it.

Jerry Keir, Executive Director

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