A statement about inclusion in the outdoors

We believe that the outdoors should be inclusive and accessible to everyone. 

We believe in not only making the outdoor spaces we all enjoy accessible, but safe for everyone. 

We work to change the culture of outdoor recreation as designed for enjoyment only by white, straight, and able people. 

It is not enough to locate your program in an “underserved” neighborhood and make it affordable to all – rather we need to do better by designing programs that are reflective of a variety of cultural perspectives. The culture of the training course must be inviting to those from other cultures.

We ensure that our white volunteers who participate in our training course and lead public programs check their privilege, stand up, speak out, and take action when they see something not right. 

Many people don’t participate in lots of programs because they are perceived as unsafe for persons of color or other marginalized audiences, not because it is not something they enjoy doing. That is not ok. We can do better.

We will not work with or support organizations that practice discrimination on any level, and need to strive to make all programs a place where participants can feel safe. 

Arizona Master Naturalist Association Equal Opportunity Statement:

All AZMNA activities are conducted in a manner that assures equal opportunity for all, based solely on individual merit and fitness of applicants and employees, related to specific jobs and without regard race, age, creed, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political affiliation, or pregnancy or other basis protected by law.

Friends, it has taken me almost a week to put these thoughts on paper. As I continue to be outraged by the events in the news I know that we need to listen more, and listen carefully. 

Our organization is founded on natural history AND cultural history. We must consider both of these things together, and each are unextractable from the other. We may have arrived at this point by taking separate paths but your understanding of natural history cannot exclude the unfairness that has been in place for 100s of years at the hands of white colonization. We are suffering from systemic racism and because of that many of our outdoor spaces are unsafe for marginalized communities. 

Together with the Arizona Association for Environmental Education and the USA National Phenology Network we are working on a research project designed to ensure that education, stewardship, and citizen science programs we deliver and spaces we occupy are safe and welcoming for ALL people. We embrace differences and need to listen and learn. We are doing our homework and reading a lot. We want to amplify voices of marginalized communities by supporting cultural affinity groups, and donate to their organizations.

If you wish to join our training program and become a volunteer leader interested in working for natural and cultural history, know that our curriculum is designed to call out racism, teach about multiple ways of knowing the natural world, and inspires you to think beyond what you think you might know about environmental history and education. It is not simply a program that teaches you about the biome in which you live in Arizona. We ask our volunteers, especially those of privilege, to stand up when they see injustice, take the lead by getting out of the way, and ensure that every hike they take, every program they share, and every bird walk they enjoy is done with empathy, compassion, and consideration for others who may not have the luxury of enjoying the outdoors safely as you do.

This is not a political issue, it is a human rights and cultural history issue as much as it is a natural history issue. Each year as part of our curriculum for the course we’ve been honing in on content designed to ensure that the places we go and the classroom space we hold is welcoming and accessible to EVERYONE. Not just white, middle class, straight, able, sometimes retired people.

As you are out in the field or online in this time of social distancing, I encourage you to think deeply about how you are enjoying your space and how others are not afforded the same opportunity because of the systemic racism in this country. If we would like to make our programs and training course more diverse, the awareness of this marginalization must be called out so others will feel welcome to join us.

There is much to learn about how we can do better. And most importantly we need to call attention to the groups like Diversify OutdoorsOutdoor AfroLatino OutdoorsNatives OutdoorsBlack Girls Trekkin’The Venture Out Project, and support them physically and monetarily as we can. 

For further reading:

NOTE: if you cannot access any of these resources email lorianne@azmasternaturalist.org and I will send you a copy of the article. The books are available in our public library systems. There are plenty more out there – just take the time to search.


A Glossary for Understanding the Dismantling Structural Racism/Promoting Racial Equity Analysis, The Aspen Institute.

How to be an anti-racist educator, Dena Simmons – ACSD (October 2019)

A threat to justice everywhere – National Park Conservation Association (May 29, 2020)

9 Rules for the Black Bird Watcher, J. Drew Lanham – Orion Magazine (Oct. 2013)

Nine new revelations for the Black Bird Watcher, J. Drew Lanham – Vanity Fair (May 27, 2020)

How am I going to be perceived as a Black Man with Binoculars, J. Drew Lanham – Vanity Fair (May 27, 2020)

Five ways to make the outdoors more inclusive – An action plan for change, The Atlantic (2018)

Nature Therapy is a Privilege, Jule Beck – The Atlantic (June 23, 2017) 

The woods are my safe haven but that’s not true for everyone, Jason Ward – Audubon (May 31, 2018)

The realities of being a black birdwatcher – Eric Levenson, CNN (May 27, 2020) NOTE: Trigger warning, there is a link to the Amy Cooper video on this page.

Bad things happen in the woods: The anxiety of hiking while black, Candice Pires – The Guardian (July 13, 2018)

We’re here, you just don’t see us, Latria Graham, Outside Online (May 21, 2018)

Black Communities are Reclaiming Space Outdoors, Carla Bell – Yes Magazine (May 9, 2019)

How one national park is attracting Latino Visitors, Amanda Merck – Salud America (July 19, 2018)

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, Peggy McIntosh – National Seed Project (2010)

Environmentalist doesn’t just mean white and wealthy, Linda Poon – CityLab (November 2, 2018)

Celebrating Cultures of the Grand Canyon Before National Park Designation, An interview with Sergio Avila, Steve Shadley, KNAU/NPR (June 21, 2019) 

Let’s talk about people of color’s trauma in the Environmental Sector, Rasheena Fountain – Medium (June 10, 2019)

After thousands of years western science is slowly catching up to indigenous knowledge, George Nicholas – Yes Magazine (February 26, 2018)

What decolonization is and what it means to me, Tina Curiel-Allen – Teen Vogue (March 4, 2018)

The environmental movement needs to reckon with its racist history, Julian Brave NoiseCat – Vice (Sept 13, 2019)

Why a wildlife biologist became a social justice advocate, Jessica Kutz – High Country News (Jan 16, 2020)


Ten books about race to read instead of asking a POC to explain it to you, Sadie Trombetta – Bustle Magazine (March 20, 2018)

Black Faces, White Spaces, Carolyn Finney 

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

An African American and Latinx History of the United States (REVISIONING HISTORY), Paul Ortiz

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall-Kimmerer

How to be an Anti-racist, Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility, Robin D’Angelo

Birding for Everyone, John C. Robinson

Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, Dudley Edmondson

Even more resources

An essential reading guide for fighting racism, Arianna Rebolini – BuzzFeed News (May 29, 2020)

Anti-racist resources

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