It has been nearly six months since I wrote to you about the tragic death of George Floyd and the systemic racism that persists in our country. At that time, I pledged that the Willistown Conservation Trust would take intentional steps to examine what we, as an organization, can do better to help heal the wounds of injustice and to make the Trust, and the land trust movement as a whole, more relevant to all people regardless of background. We recognized that, to make a meaningful difference, we must strive to make our organizational structure, our natural resources and all of our programs more welcoming, inclusive and accessible to all people.
I am pleased to share that over the past several months we have made significant progress toward addressing these complicated issues. Early on we formed a working group, the Committee For Equity and Inclusion (CEI), consisting of several dedicated Trustees and staff members and co-chaired by Trustees Alice Hausmann and Alex Zozaya. This committee was charged with creating a path forward for the Trust to become an organization that reflects diversity and inclusion at every level, from internships and volunteers, to staff, to our board of Trustees. After a thoughtful examination of internal perspectives, and with input from a number of outside individuals, the Committee has taken an important first step in creating the path forward by developing a Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which I am excited to share with you. It reads as follows:
WILLISTOWN CONSERVATION TRUST
Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
The Mission of the Willistown Conservation Trust is “To preserve and manage the open land, rural character, scenic, recreational, historic, agricultural and natural resources of the Willistown area and nearby communities, and to share these unique resources with people of all ages and backgrounds to inspire, educate and develop a lifelong commitment to the land and the natural world.”
Historically, the voices and experiences of certain groups, including Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, have been and continue to be underrepresented in the land conservation movement. Willistown Conservation Trust believes that nature and open space are for everyone and embraces all forms of identity including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and class, religious or spiritual belief, age, and ability. As conservationists, we celebrate the vast diversity of life on our planet, and work each day to preserve and protect these natural resources for future generations. Guided by this ethos, we commit to including a broader and more diverse group of people in our work.
To fully realize our mission, we as an organization, must make a concerted effort to weave DEI into the fabric of our organization at all levels. In pursuit of that end, Willistown Conservation Trust commits to:
- An ongoing effort to reflect on and actualize our commitment to diversity throughout all levels of our organization.
- Examining our organization’s culture and business practices to ensure equity in our operations.
- Actively seek opportunities to learn about biases and injustices in the conservation field, and how we as an organization can better promote inclusivity across our programming.
As we commit to this work, we recognize that the process will be dynamic and ongoing. Working alongside other groups endeavoring to diversify conservation efforts in Chester County and beyond, we strive to recognize, amplify, and engage the voices and experiences of underrepresented groups for the benefit of not just our communities, but of the natural world.
This guiding statement on DEI was formed with the consensus of every Trustees and staff member, each of whom has committed to support the actions needed to ensure that the Trust becomes an agent for the kind of change that will help the healing process and assure a better future for all. Change that will serve to make not only our organization, but the land trust movement as a whole, stronger and more meaningful as we bring more people together with a shared passion for the land and our precious natural resources.
As we continue this important work, I invite your insights, comments, and questions. The Committee for Equity and Inclusion continues to meet monthly, working to establish concrete goals inspired by the Trust’s statement on DEI, including board and staff retreats, participation on the WeConservePA DEIJ Council, continued participation in the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s DEIJ Workgroup, and an exciting new internship opportunity for minority students which will launch in the New Year.
Meanwhile, enjoy the upcoming Holidays! Be safe, be healthy, and may your New Year be EVERGREEN!
Bonnie Van Alen, Executive Director