As a land trust, we recognize our responsibility is not limited to stewardship of land and natural resources. The events of the past month—including the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, and the birdwatching incident in Central Park with Christian Cooper—remind us of everyday injustice, inequity and lack of safety for People of Color, especially Black people.
A recent study by the Trust for Public Land showed that People of Color, who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, are also less likely to have access to nearby greenspace. Such spaces are critical to our mental, physical and spiritual health, especially at a time like this.
Access is critical. As a conservation organization, we must also preserve, tell, and reflect on the human chronicle, both stirring and shameful, that has unfolded on these lands. While Revolutionary War history is much celebrated across the Hudson Highlands, other human stories of the land are barely acknowledged. In particular, there was a long period of slavery across the Hudson Valley persisting into the nineteenth century. And we should never forget that the land was sustainably managed by the Lenape Nation before their removal. For land to truly be inclusive, these stories must be known.
We are listening, we are learning. As part of our mission, HHLT is committed to:
- Safe and equitable access to nature
- Sharing stories of People of Color on the land
- Clean water for all our communities
- Diverse hiring practices
- Inclusive community outreach and events.
We must, and will, do more.