fbpx
 

The Department of the Interior (DOI) wants to advance equity in the outdoors. Although people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the total U.S. population, close to 70 percent of people who visit national forests, national wildlife refuges, and national parks are white, according to statistics collected from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service.

On Monday, DOI announced plans to hold five listening sessions from Oct. 19 to Oct. 27 to hear public comment “on barriers that underserved communities and individuals may face in participating in recreation opportunities on Interior-managed public lands and waters.”

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

The testimony collected at the listening sessions is aimed at informing DOI’s work “to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030,” all while achieving equitable access for all Americans to access them. DOI did not respond to requests from Native News Online to define “lands and waters," nor did it provide further details about where, or what, “30 percent” of lands and waters the plan encompasses.  

“I believe that more people will truly care about our land, air, waters, animals, and outdoor places if they can experience them first hand. It's up to all of us to make sure that happens in communities across the country,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) said in a statement. “As we work to address inequitable access to the outdoors for communities of color and underserved communities, conversations and listening sessions like these will be crucial as we pursue the creation and stewardship of inclusive spaces that all people can access.”

DOI invites stakeholders to weigh in on: barriers they face visiting Interior-managed public lands and waters, and how those barriers can best be eliminated, as well as how the Interior can engage stakeholders from underserved communities.

CEO Sherry L. Rupert (Paiute/Washoe) of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA)—a nonprofit working for the last two decades to support and grow Indigneous tourism— said that AIANTA hopes the listening sessions will also serve as a reminder that most of America’s public lands are the ancestral home to the country’s many Indigenous peoples.

“We encourage tribes to attend these listening sessions to remind Interior that visiting the ancestral homes of the nation’s native people can help alleviate the burden of over tourism at these sites,” Rupert said in a statement to Native News Online. “Sharing the wealth of Native experiences located in nearby gateway communities can help relieve some of the stresses of tourism at these park sites while also driving economic opportunities for nearby communities.”

AIANTA currently manages two partnerships with the National Park Service, and is helping chronicle the Native tourism experiences along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and the Anza National Historic Trail, both in San Benito County, California. 


To join in on the Interior’s listening sessions, information is listed in the Federal Register notice. Advanced registration for individuals and groups is strongly encouraged, the Department notes. Stakeholders can also submit comments by visiting Regulations.gov and entering DOI-2021-0008 in the search bar to find the docket.

More Stories Like This

Biden Administration Announces $135 Million to Relocate Tribes Affected by Climate Change
Federal Court to Rehear Apache Stronghold’s Case to Protect Sacred Site
Polluted Lands Persist on Leech Lake Indian Reservation
Rep. Peltola Calls for Federal Disaster Funding for Crab Fisheries
California Senators Introduce Legislation to Recognize Tule River Tribe’s Water Rights

Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news? 

For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.  Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $25 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10.  Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news. 

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Writer
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the publication's lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.