Land Conservation Should Benefit Everyone
Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, ability, socioeconomic background, or sexual orientation, everyone should have equal access to the benefits of nature.
At the Open Space Institute, we know that people’s access to land and the outdoors has not always been equitable, and so embracing, celebrating, and uplifting diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our organization to create safe and welcoming open spaces for everyone. That is why we foster belonging in the outdoors, recognize the importance of historically significant lands, and empower nonprofits and young leaders through partnerships within many local communities.
After all, everyone has a stake in the protection of our natural places and keeping the land we love and need healthy for the next generation.
Remarks by Kim Elliman, President & Chief Executive Officer of OSI (Read the Full Essay, 'Who Is the Land For?'):
“We in the land community have an obligation to open our minds to better understand the complex, and at times racist, history of land use. To repair damage done by a system from which we have all benefited, we must commit to do more, including taking on issues of environmental justice, particularly as they relate to clean water, clean air, and climate protection. And we must also work to create more green spaces and ensure that they are safe and welcoming — so that more people can enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of nature.”
OSI Equity Values
The Open Space Institute will improve how open spaces will be managed to accommodate increased demand for natural spaces, provide ecological services necessary for community wellbeing, and benefit an ever-evolving constituency.
- We seek out different perspectives to help build an inclusive conservation movement.
- We embrace diversity to accomplish the mission of conservation for all people.
- We promote a culture of institutional integrity, collaboration, and honesty, and one that inspires enjoyment and fulfillment in the workplace.
Greenway Trails and Equity
OSI’s commitment to improving access to trails and green space for everyone.
From riding a bike, gathering with family and friends, or taking a break from the stresses of everyday life, access to the outdoors provides a range of health and community benefits. Still, these universal benefits are not always universally available.
Historic conditions and practices have limited available, safe, and welcoming green spaces for low income and marginalized communities. Trails and greenways offer new opportunities to bring parks and open space directly to people and a wide array of communities. In our pursuit of creating greenway connections, the Open Space Institute is committed to being a responsive partner and integrating equity into this highly beneficial work.
Our work creates, protects, and improves trails and greenways to support healthy lifestyles and strengthen communities; promote inclusivity and positive outdoor experiences; and create and sustain new transportation options and economic activity.
Through our greenway trails initiatives, OSI is bringing people closer to nature, and to each other.
OSI’s Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Statement
The land protected by OSI throughout the eastern United States and Canada holds a long and tragic legacy of forced removal and cultural degradation of Native American and Indigenous people. OSI recognizes Native American and Indigenous peoples as the original stewards of these lands and honors their right to sovereignty and self-determination.
OSI is committed to building mutually beneficial and respectful partnerships with Indigenous tribes that uphold their cultures, expertise, and spiritual connection to the land. By actively integrating equity into the foundation of its work, OSI is taking steps to promote and sustain a more just future for all.
Creating Safe Open Spaces
Fostering Belonging in the Outdoors
Everyone should have access to the transformative and restorative benefits of nature. OSI works to foster belonging in the outdoors by:
'Our land is intrinsic to who we are, it's our identity. The greatest gift is to have our land back.' - Bonney Hartley, Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Community
- Spearheading the northern New Jersey Greenway, a project that will turn nearly nine miles of former rail line into a public park, bringing more equitable access to nature and recreational opportunities, increased economic activity, and countless other benefits to one the most diverse and densely populated regions in the nation.
- Launching the $18 million Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund. Aimed at accelerating land conservation in the eastern U.S. to counter climate change and its impacts, the Fund advances efforts by BIPOC-led organizations to align their conservation goals around climate priorities.
- Re-opening South Carolina's Rocky Point Community Forest, as part of a transformative park network and water trail along the Black River. Once a popular segregation-era community park, Rocky Point had closed and was thought to be lost forever, until OSI and its partners protected the land in 2015.
Recognizing Historically Significant Lands
OSI recognizes that it is impossible to separate land from human history. OSI’s efforts to share the history of the land and its people include:
- Returning Papscanee Island to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, nearly 400 years after their ancestors were removed from the land. The land was protected from development by OSI in the 1990s and has since been a quiet preserve on the shores of the Hudson River, just 10 minutes from downtown Albany.
- Joining forces to protect Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Once home to an ancient Mississippian civilization and their descendants -- the Muscogee Creek people -- the Ocmulgee River spans 17,000 years of Native American culture.
- Protecting South Carolina's Hasty Point, enabling the launch of a community-based planning initiative that will include educational interpretation on the painful slave history of the former plantation, while enhancing recreation in the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge.
Empowering Nonprofits & Young Leaders
OSI fosters the growth and success of community-based organizations and young leaders focused on environmental causes. Our work empowering nonprofits and young leaders includes:
- Implementing the groundbreaking Conservation Diversity Fellowship, designed to change the future face of conservation. It immerses recent college graduates and members of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community in the various components of conservation, from transactions and land stewardship to advocacy and grant writing.
- Administering OSI's Citizen Action Program, which over 40 years has mentored, trained, and launched nearly 150 grassroots start-ups in New York City and beyond. These organizations include Black Urban Growers and Christopher Park Alliance, which is dedicated to stewarding the park across from the Stonewall Inn, where the historic rebellion for LGBTQ+ rights took place in 1969.
- Managing the Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund, to support Hudson River Valley organizations to develop environmental education projects and programs to make nature and the outdoors more available and welcoming to all people.
- Administering the Barnabas McHenry Hudson River Valley Awards, to promote exceptional young leaders in the fields of environmental conservation, historic preservation, environmental justice, the arts, and tourism.