Environmentalists are glad Congress is looking into diversity at the National Park Service, but they want lawmakers to go bigger.
Groups that advocate racial diversity in the environmental movement sent a letter this week to top lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee, asking them to broaden their scope after recently pressing NPS on its efforts to diversify its workforce and attract diverse visitors.
“[W]e urge the committee to broaden its inquiry to all federal environmental agencies and conservation, environmental and natural resources divisions and components of federal agencies,” the letter says. “In order to better serve and reflect the diversity of the American experience, all federal agencies should promote and increase diversity, and ensure fairer environmental outcomes for all individuals.”
The letter to committee leaders Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) was spearheaded by Green 2.0, an initiative dedicated to boosting diversity across environmental groups. The heads of many major environmental groups, including Sierra Club President Michael Brune and Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp, also signed on. It was also sent to the leaders of agencies across government that do environmental and energy work.
The greens applauded lawmakers’ letter in April to NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis that requested information about that agency’s diversity efforts. “We agree that the national park system should better reflect the diversity of America’s history, people, and cultures, especially given the changing demographics of our nation’s population,” they wrote in their letter this week.
In the April letter, House Democrats voiced concerns about the fact that minorities represent only 20 percent of the NPS workforce, a smaller share than the broader U.S. population, which is 36 percent minority. Minorities also visit the parks at much lower rates than white people, the lawmakers said (E&E Daily, April 19).
“The data, however shows that all federal agencies relevant to environmental policy are in the same position as NPS,” Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0, said in a statement.
“By 2044 people of color will make up a majority of the nation’s population,” she added. “Given an aging workforce, the federal government stands to face literally thousands of retirements in the next few years. These vacancies are opportunities to bring new leaders into the fold who reflect the direction in which our country is moving. Failing to seize this moment ensures that people of color will be left behind generationally. The time to raise the persistent lack of diversity in government is now and we hope that Congressional committees and agencies will do that urgently.”
The Energy Department’s staff was 75.8 percent white in 2014, according to government data compiled by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. EPA’s workforce was 66.5 percent white that same year, the data show.
Click here to read the environmentalists’ letter.