Photo by Daniel Gorostieta

Save the Redwoods League protects and restores redwood forests and connects all people to their peace and beauty. Over the last century, we have come to understand more deeply that our human communities are part of redwood ecosystems, and redwoods conservation has an impact on all Californians and beyond. We are committed to integrating the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into both our organizational culture and our conservation work in these iconic forests.

DEI Defined

The League has adopted the following definitions of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice to guide our work. Diversity refers to the differences between people based on the ways in which we experience systemic advantages or barriers to opportunities. Inclusion is fostering a sense of belonging by centering, valuing, and amplifying the voices, perspectives, and styles of those who experience more barriers based on their identities. Equity involves allocating resources to ensure everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities. As we advance in this work, we aspire to move further on the equity spectrum toward justice—the dismantling of barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that all individuals and communities can live full and dignified lives.

Why DEI?

The American conservation movement and associated organizations, including our own, have historically been led and supported by affluent white men, to the exclusion of other voices. The League humbly acknowledges that some of our founders were leaders in the racist pseudoscience of eugenics. We wholly reject eugenics, and we are mindful of how the demographics and affiliations of our founders influenced our organizational development and early conservation practices. Our intention is to fully address and ultimately transcend this piece of our story.

As a start, we acknowledge that the coast redwood and giant sequoia ranges are home to Native Americans and numerous California tribes. These places are fundamental to their identities, cultures, and histories. The genocide and removal of Native communities across the West made possible the harvesting of the ancient redwood forest, and then the subsequent public lands movement that provided pathways to redwoods protection. Historical conservation policies and approaches have largely ignored the value of Indigenous tribes’ complex understanding of the land, based on traditional ecological knowledge under which redwood ecosystems flourished for millennia. This erasure had negative effects on both the forest and people.

Furthermore, logging in the 19th and 20th centuries established an industry and local economies rooted in unsustainable redwood timber harvest, which ultimately gave rise to Save the Redwoods League. The League understands that natural resource conservation efforts have affected some rural communities that had depended on extraction industries, and that those local communities have suffered in these historic economic transitions.

We also acknowledge that redwood parks have been shaped by white American culture, leading to the exclusion of other cultures. Early park design minimized human interaction with nature and provided for limited, prescriptive experiences. Programming has further focused on Western science and naturalist perspectives, and interpretation often reinforces such values and emphasizes the stories of white history. We recognize that biased narratives and constrained park design, in the broader social context of widespread institutional discrimination and injustices, have made many people feel unwelcome or unsafe in public lands and the outdoors; this is reflected in significant gaps in visitation among people of color and other marginalized communities, particularly in more remote old-growth redwoods destinations.

As the League may be a microcosm and a product of these historical inequities, today we commit to transforming both our internal organizational culture and expanding our Protect, Restore, and Connect vision to embody diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI is inextricably linked to our mission. By prioritizing these values, we can empower all people—from our staff to our supporters to historically marginalized communities—to heal our forests and our communities together.

Our work begins with stewarding an organization in which all staff as well as Board and Council leadership can thrive. By creating welcoming and accountable spaces for people of all identities, we will not only forge a more inclusive and equitable organization, but also enable talented staff, volunteer leaders, and supporters to be ambassadors of our mission.

In our external conservation programs, building meaningful partnerships with underrepresented groups will not only rightfully shape our projects, but also make for better redwoods experiences, broaden engagement with our mission, and deepen the impact of our work. As an inclusive organization that incorporates a variety of perspectives, we can more authentically and effectively serve the redwoods and our communities.

Our Commitments

The League embraces equity and inclusion so that our work to heal the redwood forest engages our full community and results in greater diversity in our workforce, Board and Council leadership, and programs.

Our DEI efforts are driven by our three core commitments, which will guide us in creating systematic changes within our organization:

  1. We commit to fostering an inclusive work environment that is imbued with care, trust, humility, candor, self-awareness, and constant learning so that staff and Board and Council leaders of all identities can thrive within our organizational ecosystem.
  2. We commit to embedding values of inclusion and equity, and increasingly working toward justice, in our full portfolio of conservation work through intentionally cultivating reciprocal partnerships and elevating marginalized groups’ perspectives, needs, and interests.
  3. We commit to building relationships with historically excluded communities in order to create resonant, welcoming redwood experiences that honor the cultural diversity of California, and to promote experiences that inspire and empower all people to build meaningful connections with the outdoors.

We understand that this is a journey, and there will be missteps along the way. But with the best of intentions, we move forward in our work to protect and restore California’s redwood forests, and connect ALL people with nature.

Our DEI Work at a Glance

Learn more about this initiative by exploring the following:

Save the Redwoods League staff at the 2018 retreatCultureOur DEI work starts within. The League has committed to supporting our staff, Board, and Council with ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion training. We have created a DEI steering group consisting of staff representatives from every department and organizational level, and of diverse backgrounds and identities; representatives from our Board of Directors sit on the steering group as well. The current cohort is guiding the planning stage of our initiative and ensuring transparency and accountability in the process.
Creek running through a redwood forestPolicyWe are developing a platform that elevates marginalized voices for a just and green economic recovery from COVID-19. The platform prioritizes three key issues in our talks with legislators to secure public funding and policy: creating and sustaining secure green jobs that employ skilled workers from forest-adjacent tribes, conservation corps, and rural communities; providing inclusive and equitable access to redwood parks and open space so that all Californians can benefit from the healing power of nature; and improving California’s climate and wildfire resilience to protect vulnerable marginalized communities.

Related Statements & Articles

FAQ

Why is the League addressing DEI now?

The League has been engaged in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts for many years and formalized an initiative in 2019. Focusing on these values now gives us a cultural foundation for delivering our ambitious Centennial Vision. We believe that protecting and restoring the redwood forests and connecting people to its peace and beauty can play a part in our collective healing. A deep focus on the culture of the League and incorporating DEI practices into the delivery of our mission helps us actively build a fuller vision for the future that includes and resonates with all people.

I didn’t realize the League and the conservation community had issues with diversity, equity, and inclusion. How do we know that this is true?

Through a deeper study and reflection on the historical context of both the League’s founding and the conservation movement at large, we found that past injustices in California’s history have had lasting impacts on California tribes’ connections to their ancestral lands, as well as marginalized communities’ access to and experiences in redwood parks and public lands. We encourage you to read more about those injustices in our commitment statement.

The 2019 Outdoor Participation Report by the Outdoor Industry Association showed that on average, 74 percent of outdoor participants are white. Last year, the League conducted visitor surveys at two redwood park project sites and found that more than 90 percent of visitors to these sites are white.

We also conducted a culture assessment survey of our staff, Board, and Council. We found that while the reports noted an overall welcoming, thoughtful, and collegial culture at the League, we still have some work to do to create a fully inclusive space for women, people of color, and queer folks within the organization.

Additionally, we know that issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion are valid not just because of internal and external research, but also because of conversations with marginalized community members who’ve shared their lived experiences.

Why is the League publicly addressing its founders’ historical involvement in eugenics now?

Through deep reflection and thoughtful discourse, we have come to understand that two of our founders’ leadership in the eugenics movement was so core to their beliefs and identities that the League must reckon with this part of our history. Many Americans have learned in recent months that a legacy of racism, as distant as it may seem, pervades so many of our institutions; the League is no exception. While the League denounces the reprehensible eugenics pseudoscience of that era, we recognize the need to do a humble and honest inventory of the biases that may continue to influence the organization in big and small ways in order to fully transcend the past.

How will DEI affect or change the organization’s mission?

The League’s core mission will not change; our Centennial Vision will only be elevated. We will continue to focus on protecting and restoring coast redwood and giant sequoia forests, and connecting people to their peace and beauty. The difference is that we will move forward on this critical work by better engaging and representing broader perspectives and interests, particularly those of our focus communities that we have identified as priorities: California Native tribes, youth of color, women and girls, and redwood forest–adjacent, poor communities.

What are some concrete ways the League is implementing DEI in conservation programs?

The League is currently working on several conservation projects that reflect our DEI values. We are working on land transactions with tribal partners, as well as supporting tribes as they reintroduce their traditional stewardship practices across the coast redwood and giant sequoia ranges. Additionally, our parks projects are being developed with our communities of focus in mind. We encourage you to read more in the section above, “Our DEI Work at a Glance.”

How are you ensuring diverse representation and covering any blind spots in your DEI work?

DEI is a priority for the League, and we are investing resources to integrate these values into our organization in a meaningful and sustainable way. We are working with great partners, the Avarna Group, which has served as our facilitator and consultant for DEI training and implementation. We have also engaged with staff members at all levels and programmatic areas, as well as our Board, Council, and various working groups, to ensure we have broad representation throughout the process of developing and implementing the initiative.

How can I help with your DEI efforts?

The best way you can help is to communicate with us via email to DEI@SaveTheRedwoods.org and over social media to let us know when you think we’re doing well and when we could improve. We are encouraged by the engagement from our staff, Board, Council, donors, partners, and broader audiences so far.

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