Suzanne Potter / California News Service
LOS ANGELES – As the National Park Service turns 100 this summer, a broad coalition of conservation, civil rights, environmental justice and faith-based groups is pressing the White House to make public lands more welcoming to people of color. The group has launched a petition on Change.Org asking President Obama to instruct the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service to develop more inclusive policies.
Jose Gonzalez, founder of the group Latino Outdoors, said hiring more park rangers of color would be a great start.
“They know that action needs to be taken, but we’re still looking at agencies that are not representative of the population at large,” he said. “The Park Service is still 80 percent-plus Caucasian white.”
He said the groups also will submit a list of policy goals along with the petition. One goal was closer Tuesday when it was reported the administration plans to declare a national monument in the struggle for gay rights at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Mark Masaoka is the policy director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, an association of 45 Asian Pacific nonprofits in Los Angeles County. He would like future monuments that spotlight environmental heroes from communities of color. He suggests one more potential project for the list: a monument in Delano, in the central valley, to Filipino-American Larry Itliong, who co-founded the United Farmworkers Union.
“They have one for Cesar Chavez, and we’d like to see a monument for the Filipino role,” he said. “In fact, it was the Filipino workers who initiated the strike that Cesar Chavez later joined and the Filipino and Latino organizations then formed the United Farm Workers Union.”
Advocates hope the next president will be as conservation-minded as President Obama, who has created 23 new national monuments, changed the name of Mount McKinley back to Denali, and created the “Every Kid in a Park” program that gives all fourth graders a free pass to a national park.
The Change.Org petition can be read online at <https://www.change.org/p/public-lands-for-all-americans>.