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Developing Diversity in the National Parks


Earlier this summer we had a, shall I say 'spirited,' discussion revolving around how to increase diversity in visitation to the national parks. This topic has resurfaced in an Associated Press article that looks at efforts a group is taking to introduce minorities to the parks.

A National Park Service survey in 2003 showed Americans of all backgrounds gave the same reasons for staying away from public lands — cost, distance, not knowing what to do there and lack of interest. But some differences emerged, giving a sense how cultural perceptions of the outdoors might vary among groups.

Blacks were significantly more likely to say they received poor service from park employees or that they felt uncomfortable while visiting parks. Hispanics expressed greater concern than others about having to make reservations too far in advance and about personal safety while outdoors.

Experts say these perceptions can be changed, but only through a concerted effort.

You can find details on Wildlink, which works to bring minority teens into the park system, at this site. The Park Service's report on ethnic diversity in the parks is attached below.


Lone Hiker, your point is well taken and much appreciated. I smell smoke, I guess Rome is starting to burn.

I can't speak for Dylan's viewpoint, but I'd be willing to bet the Maggie's Farm that he's intelligent enough to "see which way the wind blows" and find his own way. Now, having thoroughly exhausted my references to his music, the short answer to your question, in my world, is roughly as follows:

I hate general labels, as they rarely, if ever, pertain to world views, and the momentary and ever-changing viewpoints of the human animal. It's not as simple as always aligning yourself with the "liberal left" or "conservative right" position, as issues are most often clouded by the complexities of everyday life, and every agenda belies a hidden agenda. Those veiled hypocracies are what really irk me, as do the people who take the time to create such "inner visions". Middle grounds are so often inattainable due to lack of concern about the overall picture while concentrating on furthering one's position, feathering one's nest, or however you want to put it. The common good is the playground of suckers like me, who would like to still believe that justice for all is attainable in all aspects of life; legally, morally, ethically, you name it. But to actually achieve that goal you have to be willing to sacrifice, and that seems to be the sticking point in modern society. It's fine for you, and I'll help you to, but I personally can't for various reasons, is a pervasive attitude. It is unfortunately the case that the overriding concern within our borders is almost always a monetary one, and in my view our unilaterally capitalistic world view will eventually be the cause of the collapse of our society. In spite of what we would like to believe, money does not solve all the world's ills, and has been the root cause of more than it has solved. Please don't read this as one of those "money is the root of all evils" lectures......much good can be accomplished with proper funding for many issues, it just seems as though examples related to the good are harder and harder to find evidence of in actual practice and the opposite is all too evident existing solely in theory.

I can't find it in me to honestly believe that either Blue or Red is more pro-park than the other. There is abundant evident to contradict either party's position trying to justify their claim that they indeed are the most sympathetic. I find both more pathetic than demonstrating hardline concern and backing words with actions, which is the only true measuring stick of one's committment to anything in life. People will be quick to point out that the Conservatives are the one's responsible for the attack on the Arctic Refuge while the Liberals recently locked away large tracts of land in southern Utah under the umbrella public domain / preserve. I can be just as quick to point out that Teddy Roosevelt, a republican, is noted for being "a conservationist well ahead of his time" and a major driving influence of the inception of the park service almost a century ago. I can also point to our current liberal majority in Congress, who can't seem to find money for our parks at present, and currently count more big business contributors in their coffers than the Reps. Certainly the current war budget is an issue with national funding but don't put all your eggs in that basket either. We give away BILLIONS annually to purchase friendship and elicit favors from the world community, and that practice has to be suspended as well as this "you threatened my daddy so I'll gonna blow your head off" war.

I believe that the initial Blue vs. Red, historically speaking, is a derivation of our media moguls......the parties themselves rallied around those stupid animal symbols for interminable years and were quite content. Defining either party is difficult, and by my estimate, relatively useless. It used to be a connotation that Dems were "little man, socialist, poor and minorities" while the Reps were '"big business, rich man, WASP, fiscally responsible", but those images no longer pertain, in spite of what Hill and Billery would have us believe. Both currently stand for expansionism, fiscally irresponsiblility, short-sightedness, buy-your-friends, moral deficiency, and are ethcially bankrupt. Neither even makes a fleeting attempt at demonstrating their environmental sensitivity or responsiblility, the concerns and campaign promises relevant their constituents or the operational state of our country outside of situational economic tweaking. No Al Gore supporters need comment about that last line......where was he as VP besides trying to distance himself from someone who didn't know the defintion of sex? Is it a wonder I proudly align myself with neither, and distance myself from both at every opportunity? I proudly represent the true independents, those not beholden to ANY industry or special interest (e.g., NRA), foreign policy, and who view our own America as our SOLE primary interest and would refuse to be concerned about anyone and anywhere unless our own house was COMPLETELY in order.

Did I miss something, as usual?

Lone Hiker, your blog is most articulate! After all that's been said, just one simple question: In your own words, what's "your personal definition" of a right wing individual vs. left wing individual? Why is it so difficult to find a common middle ground in goverment today? Who started this name calling and shellacking of the blue states vs. the red states? Wouldn't the blue states be more pro parks then the red states? It appears that way from my own personal observation. Again, your blog is most interesting. I think Bob Dylan is most likely to be a blue state refugee then a red state...his music certainly sounds like it.


After close inspection of your dissertation, I am reminded of a line from a song, as follows:
"We always did feel the same we just saw it from a different point of view......Tangled up in Blue"
My apology to Bobby Dylan.

I get the distinct impression that deep down, both of us "rebels" are going about a different means to the same end, but it's less different than I think you might believe. The American public as a whole never affirmed the state of government, it was in essence, thrust upon us for better or worse. Unfortunately, we've been stuck with the "worse" end of the stick for quite some time, unless you're a blind sheep who swears allegiance to the Red or Blue without questioning their true agenda. Small group "home rule" was supposed to be encouraged by individual state government, but most counties, townships, villages, etc. don't realize they have been empowered to do so. Again, the Elephants and the Donkeys have the most to loose, and aren't to happy, or ready to be relieved of their current "responsiblity to effectively govern society", as I heard one of them refer to it as. The next time I get effective federal or state government will be the first in my lifetime. I do have some decent, honest folk here at the village and township level, but they're barely empowered to hold meetings, let alone decide policy. Kudos to them, they do try.

I don't have the statistics on who visits the parks either. For that matter, if they're kept at all, that's an issue in my world. Are there figures, and are they gleaned from polls/surveys, headcounts, observation, or what? The entire basis for such a study raises questions in my eyes. What were/are those in charge of such a study intending to prove? My point is, as you addressed, we can't be drawing conclusions on why without taking those questions directly to the people who DON'T go and determining root casues. I'm sorry, I just can't buy the feelings of being made "uneasy" or feeling "bored" or "not being able to plan far enough in advance" as legitimate concerns. For instance, how can someone be made to feel uneasy in a place they've never experienced first-hand? How can you tell if you're bored without being there to know for certain? If there exists evidence of profiling, bring it on, expose the worthless pieces of garbage that are proliferating that stereotype, beat them senseless and replace them with people who can manage to provide a service, equally, across the board to all, foreign and domestic, green, blue, violet and orange. I have no use, as should none of us in the 21st C, for this type of behavior or mindset. That said, I'm not fool enough to pretend that is doesn't exist. But it can't be permitted, especially by those in public serivce. Not that they really differ from those in private service, but I think you know what I'm getting at. I applaud the NPS for their concern, but I still take pride in the cultural diversity that our parks elicit from the world forum that I find in every park I visit, and the sense of appreciation of the good fortune of our geography that is expressed by the foreign visitors with whom I regularly engage in conversation in lodges, on trails, over dinner, in campgrounds, in giftshops, parking lots, etc.

One last clarification, on the issue of compromise. Compromise required dialog. The only dialog that seems to exist these days is ,"We'll support this issue for your support on the next issue so that we both save face". That's not compromise, that's blackmail, or extortion, or whatever you might call it. My political system reverts back to the Amercan ideal of the late 18th / early 19 century, akin to the composition of current British Parliment, where 4-5 parties have representatives, nobody has a majority, and people are FORCED to open a dialog and compromise to effectively govern. When no one group "controls the House or Senate", I'll be a happy camper. Prior to the inception of the Republican Party in 1860, such was the government of the United States. Their names were many, but the form that politics took during this period of time was quite unique. True the country has grown in populace, territory, and world stature. Those reasons only bolster the case for a return to that system, not a reason to retreat further into the quagmire.

Sorry to hear about the lead, but that can be corrected. Best check your water main coming in from the street, too. Way dangerous stuff for the very young and very old due to effects on both developing and declining immune systems and during periods of celluar growth and the related childhood development issues. And no, not too much gas for me! Like I said earlier, nothing personal. Just the residual effects of being associated with the territory and the initials DC. I do feel for you.....decent people don't deserve that moniker. And it's not as though greasy palms only exist at the federal level. Every state capital has more than their fair share as well. As does every major city. And many private industries. And public interests. And on, and on, and on. But I think Frank appreciates more concise articles. Bet we both drive him crazy at times!

Most of my real job actually is editing; in conversation, we're allowed poetic license to ramble on!

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Wow. Someone hire Jim an editor! :)

But I don't understand how we are contributing to the situation by not feeling sorry for, and thereby working to enable, a group or multiple groups of people of WHATEVER background to take part in something that many have no interest in becomming a part of in the first place.

I don't disagree with this necessarily. I don't think any solution to racism can be paternalistic. I have no idea who or who doesn't have interest in visiting parks; and, no we can't simply say, "Hey, come here. Let's be happy and diverse." That's not the point. The point is to make sure that what we are doing now isn't contributing to the reasons why certain groups of people whom reason tells us are the same, behave differently. If the consequences of our discovery point to things fundamentally off about not simply the parks but our environmental assumptions, then so be it. The lack of diversity (everywhere but Yosemite, apparently), the changing trends, are cause for concern that something's not right. It doesn't suggest a solution; it does suggest that we all should be talking about the problem. And, far from taking us from other pressing issues, I think we'll find that they're inter-related.

Those percentages, when compared to the total sample size available within any given group of people are indeed small, to be sure. But to rest the responsibility solely on the shoulders of racism, while ignoring the cultural make-up and general underlying sub-cultural and individual / personal social intersts in most certainly unfair.

Obviously, almost nothing can be reduced to a single cause. Classism is an issue in society; sexism; and all kinds of things big and small. Some are inocuous (it was raining; therefore, I didn't go outside today). However, while it's true that causes are complex and many; that doesn't mean that certain things that are wrong are insignificant or should be kept in a narrow perspective just because of it. Many of the reasons why people behave the way they do, however many they are, often amount to the same sorts of things. So often - and we've seen it repeatedly in the comments on this post and the previous discussion on diversity in the parks - culture is used to blur the issue of race. Well, damn...if you change the lens, of course you can find diversity. People wear all kinds of different clothes, have all kinds of different names, have all kinds of different interests in food, in why they visit parks. You might be able to identify different cultural traits from that. But, none of this should distract from the real issue of race in the parks. And, if there is also a "cultural" reason based on a shifting in culture among people of color over the last 40 years that's different from their racial make-up, then that also has a set of causes. Perhaps, it's a result of racism, of ongoing racism. It's evidence of something; when a culture is identifiable in part by race, why is that? These are all things to take seriously. And, if this is seen as something radically different than seeing for instance why elk behave the way they do with and without wolves, why animals behave differently in different ages, or plants grow differently in different environments, to me it's obviously not. We need to own up to the issue of racism, and we should not blur things just because there happen to be other ways of viewing things. While all the blurring may raise other interesting issues; no other cause, no other perspective, can hide the reality.

Why should any one group be overly concerned that any other such group chooses to or not to become involved in any given activity? We, as Americans, deem something to be worthwhile, for example, our political and personal freedoms. Yet a certain segment of the world views it as devil-worship and would like to kill us all for these practices and beliefs. So if Group A chooses FREELY not to be as actively interested in this pursuit as Group B, why should it raise a great concern to ANYBODY else? Is it because Group B doesn't understand how someone from Group A could choose NOT to follow their lead? Please.........

It's not a concern in itself; no one is seeking homogeneity in society. It is a concern when the markers that make people distinct and different have a racial element to it. That is a concern because that kind of separateness is irrational. It's not irrational if some people prefer to live in cities while others prefer to go to the mountains; it is a concern if all the people who love cities happen to be people of color. Even the tendency toward that suggests that something else is happening that we need to be aware of and discuss. If cultures are becoming distinct because of racism in our past, because of mistrust in our present, because of processes that continue to contribute to it (the most obvious I see every day is gentrification - a process I know I am in some way a part of), then that's a big concern. I don't mind being separated from you because I don't like you, because I happen to be a jerk, because you like classical music, because I like canyons, but I do mind it if it's because you just happen to belong to a class of people with a certain skin color, because of the values society has held that have brought about that reality. And, it's that value judgment, that irrational hierarchical attitude, that is the crux of the problem. I'd argue that we have that attitude toward land, toward property, toward other beings on the earth, toward our children, and sometimes toward people we say we love. It's a pervasive problem; race should be a simple thing to consider as we own up to all kinds of concerns. Unfortunately, so many aren't willing to take that step - papering it over with positive exceptions to the rule.

In it's purest form, democracy is indeed, "one person, one vote, majority rule"

I don't agree with this characterization of democracy. I'd say you don't have democracy without a community; the rule of the "demes" at its crux depends upon everyone. Democracy is that place where individuals find their voice within the space of the deme, the tribal society. Even if some decisions are not made through unanimous consent (for instance, you don't trust medical decisions to the majority or the minority but to a doctor), the ultimate crux of rule in society depends upon consent of everyone to the process that has been decided. That is the ultimate arbiter. The moment that democracy is rule of a group of people, whether they be the majority, the minority, the rich, the eligible, then it is essentially the tyranny of that group, and there is no rational ground for determining who falls inside or outside that line. There's a reason for instance that changing the Constitution requires far more than half the people eligible to make those decisions; unfortunately, most of us have never actually affirmed the government that rules over us. We've merely accepted it as a survival mechanism.

Modern society is far too large; I agree that democracy is impractical as it stands in our soeciety. It's why I spend my time trying to deconstruct the rationale for our large society so that we can in fact be empowered to have our interests matter within the small groups of people we actually engage on an intimate level. As it stands, though, deconstruction is tricky because I as a rebel (of sorts) am also cognizant that I benefit greatly from my privileges in society. And, my actions need to be cognizant in action. People who have no interest in anarchy, in revolution, matter. Their health matters, their recreational choices matter, their livelihood matters, even if I wish for a much smaller world. It's a bewildering maze that I don't have a great grasp on and certainly no roadmap to revolution. It may be just as revolutionary to feed a homeless person, say hello to a neighbor, or walk through the forest, as it is to make our society smaller. Right now, I think the important thing is to take the project seriously, to hear people, to listen to them, and to see what they're saying. Racism in our society is one of the greatest shared injustices; taking it seriously is a step toward deconstruction (my own project), which at the same time doesn't depend upon anyone else sharing my own point of view, which can help us all be closer. We don't need to create a diversity quota; we don't need paternalistic projects - we do need to keep the problem at the fore of our minds, of our discussions, and to think, "Hey, am I doing something I might be doing differently?" Self-critique, listening, and openness are great models for us all. Of all my criticisms of the National Park Service, I would never criticize them for at least raising this as an issue (even if government is never going to be the answer to any racial problem - but, their doing so in this case, from my own point of view helps deconstruct government and its size; it cannot cope ultimately with the consequences of this discussion and a poignant conversation will require decentralization, will require we see that voices will not be heard until they can be rulers within a community of shared interests.

I don't think the issue is compromise; the two parties represent the same basic idea. Compromise or stagnation are only distinct the way that mixing one's rat poison with one's drink or just pouring it in are distinct. Either way, you'll die. The problem is much more fundamental. We can't hear each other. Not refusing to hear each other because we conflate race and culture or because we make cultural assumptions of a certain race would be a good start in that process.

(Hopefully, not too much natural gas for you and perhaps something that helps energize discussion)

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

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