Culture Change in Conservation

For thirty years, I've held a space within the conservation movement for culture change: encouraging its values and challenging its histories, strengthening it by making it more inclusive of different worldviews, making it more about relationships between people and between people and nature.  Through on-the-ground projects, workshops, leadership development programs and the synthesis of what we've learned in essays and books, I've played a significant role in these shifts:

The shift from transactions to relationships;

The shifts from science values to social values;

The shift from social values to community values;

The inquiry into who is conservation for? Which people are served and not served;

The shift from diversity to equity and justice.

Each of these shifts have stregthened conservation because each has demanded a deeper and deeper critique of power and privilege. And by better understanding the corrosiveness of how that power has been wielded in the past and today, creating reciprocal openings for reconciliation and progress that include many more and different people.

All of my work is grounded in story and inquiry.

How is our nation evolving demographically, culturally, politically, what does this ask of conservation?

How do different generations define conservation and how does that create both friction and possibility?

Who is visible and less visible to us and how does that affect mission and capacity?

If the ownership of land and the construct of whiteness are the foundation of privilege in America, how must American conservationists wrestle with privilege privately and publicly to be in service to more and different people?

What is the role of story in helping us to see one another? How does our story put up walls or help to take walls down?


Culture Change in Conservation Examples

  • National Parks Conservation Association Board Dialogue on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

    October 17, 2019

    A challenge I presented to the board of the National Parks Conservation Association to make modern conservation about belonging, respect, and most importantly reconciliation. I argue that as conservationists, we have a responsibility to figure out our part in the great work of reconciling the two original sins of slavery and genocide.

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  • The Case for Land Justice

    May 2020

    New York State Land Trust Conference

    A presentation I gave at the New York State Land Trust Conference about how land access relates to power and self-determination. Given that indigenous people and POC have systemically been removed from land in this country while conservation groups have amassed land, conservation organizations have a responsibility to repair these relationships and restore land sovereignty for native people. 

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  • National Parks Conservation Association



    Making justice, equity, diversity and inclusion part of the DNA of a conservation organization.

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  • River Network



    Setting Strong Intention for Organizational Change On Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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  • Negotiating Generational Change


    Juneau, Alaska

    The work of conserving places and communities is never-ending and ever-changing. It’s a bigger “project” than timelines and strategic plans can hope to convey. It’s longer than board terms, congressional cycles, and political careers. It is longer even then individual human lives.

    When a mission lasts decades and decades, how does an organization evolve its definitions of what conservation means to be relevant to the present? How does an organization negotiate its meaning and values between generations? When does one generation’s strength and force of understanding the past make it hard for the next generation to look squarely and honestly at the present? How does one generation, on fire with purpose and vision, allow the next generation to see the world through their own eyes?

    In the winter and spring of 2015, I had the honor of collaborating with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) to help them grapple with these questions and formulate a new theory of change that reflects a new generation’s approach and meaning.

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  • Connecting Native and Contemporary Land Trust Leaders


    Western United States

    In collaboration with Barry Lopez, with Center for Whole Communities, with the Native Land Trust Alliance, I had the honor of helping to create and sustain a dialogue that had not before existed before between Native and contemporary (non-Native) land trust leaders in the western United States. The purpose was to strengthen relationships between the two and to identify opportunities for more collaboration. I saw, too, the significant opportunity for this dialogue to further redefine and re-invent conservation as protecting human diversity alongside biological diversity.

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  • Integrating Conservation and Human Wellbeing


    State of Maine

    What does it take for a leading, state-wide philanthropy to combine their separate grant-making in conservation and human wellbeing?  Why would they do this? What does it ask of their grantees? What do they hope success will look like?

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  • Making Allies Between Conservationists and Rural Native Communities

    November 3-6, 2014

    Sitka, Alaska

    The Sustainable Southeast Partnership is the most inspiring, well thought out and longterm commitments I've seen to bring conservation and community together to create something new and powerful for all.  It is a decade long commitment of partnership between Native corporations, rural Native communities, enviromental and community development groups who are learning the practice of longterm collaboration and partnership to create a different future for their home...

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Other Types of Facilitation I Offer