Equity and Justice Organizational Rationale

Great Old Broads for Wilderness is a national grassroots organization, led by women, that engages and inspires activism to preserve and protect wilderness and wild lands. As a women-led organization, we are acutely aware of the inequities imposed by gender discrimination. We endeavor to apply this knowledge and sensitivity, nurturing an organizational culture that recognizes, respects, and celebrates the unique contributions of diverse individuals and groups.

We strive to create a more just, equitable, diverse[1], and inclusive (i.e. broader) conservation community. We commit to honoring and supporting the history and present goals of historically underrepresented groups, which will lead to improved stewardship of land, water, and complex biological systems. 

The conservation movement will be stronger and public lands[2] better protected when all communities are fully represented. Diversity and inclusion bring valuable and varied perspectives, a dedicated and expanded base of support, and a vital focus to ensure that everyone can safely and equitably enjoy public lands and waters. As an anti-racist organization, we strive to include those who have been denied access, discouraged, stigmatized, or excluded from participating in public land activities and decision making, including people of color, immigrants and refugees, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized groups.

Because all public lands are Indigenous homelands, it is of particular importance in our work that we commit to learning from and working with Indigneous communities. We will prioritize ways to advance Tribal sovereignty and self-determination and work to achieve equity and representation wherever decisions are made about the management of lands on this continent. We honor the right of free, prior and informed consent of the original and continuing caretakers of these lands in decision-making about their use and preservation.

Why we are committed to equity and justice:

The lifeways, beliefs, identity, ongoing connection, and ancestral history of marginalized communities remain embedded in the land and water we work to protect. As an organization working to protect public lands and waters, we acknowledge that the American conservation movement, from its origins, accepted and even encouraged the removal and erasure of Indigenous People from the land. Their existence has too often been expunged through the concept of wilderness as a land without people. The conservation community has, too frequently, worked in opposition to the people who have acted for generations as land and water protectors.

Indigenous Peoples across the world are rising up to defend their land, whether from oil companies, mining, logging, industrial developments, or climate change.  These actions inspire us, and in the U.S., we’ve joined Tribes in direct support in such places as Bears Ears National Monument (UT), Oak Flat (AZ), the lower Snake River (WA), White Mesa (UT), Molok Luyuk (CA), the Northeast, and more.

We acknowledge that conservation will succeed only when it addresses the concerns of communities of color and those with deep connections to the land. We see an inherent connection between systemic racism, and the devaluation and disrespect of land, water, and wildlife. The moribund values that drive colonialism[3], exploitation, and conquest, whether of natural or human communities, arise from the same root. Just as we have long fought for protection of wilderness, wild lands, and a livable climate, so we will raise the banner of racial, cultural, and gender justice.

How We Work:

  • We work at the grassroots level in large and small communities across the United States.
  • We strive to work respectfully and inclusively, developing deep and authentic partnerships with diverse communities to further a broad set of conservation goals.
  • We identify and find ways to eliminate barriers that prevent full diversified public participation.
  • We respect and seek to understand the values and goals of communities with which we work.

[1] We define “diverse” broadly to include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, geographies, socio-economic status, beliefs, and political affiliation.   

[2] Public lands are areas of land and water that today are owned collectively by U.S. citizens and managed by government agencies. Public lands are different from private lands, which are owned by an individual, a business or another type of non-governmental organization. Although public lands are now considered to be owned collectively by United States citizens, these lands include ancestral homelands, migration routes, ceremonial grounds, and hunting and harvesting places for Indigenous Peoples who have been forcibly removed. We specify “United States citizens” in the definition of public lands because although undocumented people living in the U.S. and noncitizens have a connection to land and use public lands, because of their citizenship status, they are not included in the formal decision-making process through their right to vote. Certainly, noncitizen advocates in the NGO (non governmental organizations) or academic sectors can be influential in the public lands conversation. (Definition courtesy of wilderness.org)

[3]Colonialism is defined as a practice or policy of domination involving the subjugation of one people to another, generally with the aim of exploiting the human and economic resources of the colonized peoples or nations..