"If not now, when?" The question was asked by staff just days after the murder of George Floyd. When were we going to publicly join the growing chorus of organizations speaking in unity with people across the country outraged over the disparate killing of people of color, as well as reacting to the verbal confrontation between a white woman and black birdwatcher Christian Cooper in Central Park? Even as our pain and anger grow as public demonstrations persist for weeks and we learn of yet another inexplicable killing of Rayshard Brooks, we have struggled to find the best way to respond. Initially we shared posts about the #BlackBirdersWeek webinar series to highlight racial inequities in outdoor recreation. But that is clearly not enough. 

These events have become a catalyst for honest reflection and inquiry within our organization. Racism is part of systemic injustices that touch every part of society, including our work in conservation and environmental education. We know that the health and wellbeing of our watershed - clean water, restored wetlands, thriving wildlife – contributes to the health and well-being of communities, such as through spending time outdoors in nature. All people should have the opportunity to have positive experiences outdoors, but the reality is that many communities of color don’t have safe or equitable access to nature.
We also recognize that the environmental field is not always welcoming to people of color. We need the best minds of our generation focused on finding solutions to the problems of climate change, habitat loss, and species extinctions. Therefore, we must take deliberative steps to evaluate how the Laguna Foundation can become more diverse and how we can provide equitable opportunities for communities of color to connect with nature and help us restore a healthy watershed.

We are committed to exploring the issues of racism and the broader concept of diversity within our workplace and our programs through discussions and training with our staff, board, volunteers, and the communities we serve. We seek to expand our awareness and understanding, identify and break down barriers to engagement that may lead to inequities and lack of inclusion, and implement meaningful actions. We will reach out to allies in our communities and organizations who have advanced in this effort, and invite advisors and mentors to guide us. We expect to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. We are going to make mistakes. But we will not shy away from acting for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

We will communicate regularly on our progress through the various stages of this journey to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We will be sharing more details soon on concrete actions that we can take in the near-term as we continue working to identify additional actions over the long-term. 

As a small place-based organization, we embrace the mantra of “think globally, act locally.” In our own way, we will do our best to make a positive, long-lasting impact on our communities throughout the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed. Now is definitely the time.

Anne Morkill
Executive Director
Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation