Diversity, equity and inclusion in the National Park Service: Narratives, counter-narratives and the importance of moving beyond demographics

Authors: Yonit Yogev*,
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Social Geography, Communication
Keywords: National Park Service, diversity, equity, inclusion, public lands, environmental organizations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon D1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The National Park Service (NPS) has known for decades that its visitors and staff fail to represent the full range of the diversity of Americans. While the NPS has begun to address diversity, equity, inclusion and relevance, progress is painfully slow. Previous work has shown that structural racism is the reason why movement in this regard is lagging. Lack of equity and inclusion in the NPS (and by extension other public lands and environmental organizations) not only puts the future of public lands at risk due to changing demographics, but also constitutes environmental injustice.
Following the suggestions in the literature for more qualitative research in this area, I conducted in-depth, unstructured interviews using an interview guide or narrative story-telling with forty participants from the NPS, partner agencies, and people from communities of color, using Participatory Action Research methodology, guided by Critical Race Theory. Participants offered feedback about every aspect of the study at all stages of research and writing. The results revealed the critical importance of genuine collaboration and partnerships with communities of color, the need for fundamental changes in hiring practices and agency-wide diversity ‘training,’ the significance of and need for structured role modeling and mentorships, among several others, along with guidance for ways to overcome multiple barriers. The recommendations and stories revealed by this research will provide the NPS and other public land agencies with additional innovative ways to develop and implement policies and programs that meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population.

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