“We Need to Talk: Conserving Land for Public Health, Equity, and Access to Nature” kicked off the Partnership’s 2020 Annual Meeting with a candid conversation among a distinguished group of professionals.

We need to engage a new, intentionally inclusive generation of conservationists. Now. We need to stop talking and start doing. 

That was a major priority that emerged from the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership’s 2019 Annual Meeting as partners focused on conservation strategies for the coming decade. 

We need to aggressively address the significant inequities in how conservation has served various communities over time. Among our steps forward: 

  • collaborating with communities historically underserved by land conservation and public lands to identify a conservation agenda for the future;
  • clarifying the connection between conserving land and improving human health, with particular attention to disadvantaged communities;
  • convening public health experts, conservationists, and urban community leaders to develop recommendations for enhancing public health through land protection, recreation, access to green spaces, and restoration.

As you know from recent Lightning Updates, the Partnership and its members have been acting on some of these, including last week’s announcement of a major project to document sites important to African Americans

Now, we are taking another step, establishing a clear direction to define this work, a new draft public health goal. It includes a focus on neighborhood green spaces, locally grown food,

ensuring access within a 10 minute walk to nature, parks, and trails, and access to sites along Chesapeake waterways. It is an ambitious goal that is critically important. And we need your help in thinking through how to operationalize steps toward to achieve it. 

The Partnership’s 2020 Annual Meeting 

That’s the focus of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership’s 2020 Annual Meeting. Comprised of a series of virtual work sessions, these convenings will engage stakeholders across the watershed to develop strategies, actions, and ideas for operationalizing the Partnership’s new goal in the context of our watershed-wide, land conservation focus. 

Session 1: “We Need to Talk”

The series launched this week with “We Need to Talk: Conserving Land for Public Health, Equity, and Access to Nature” — a candid conversation sponsored by the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay and the Partnership. 

A diverse group of distinguished professionals explored the intersection of public health, equity, and conservation. The conversation was powerful, compelling, and direct. Here is just a small sampling of what was shared: 

  • The deep inequities in access to parks, green space, food, and cooler surroundings did not happen by accident. They are a direct result of planned actions with discriminatory impacts over time.
  • The pandemic highlighted the dramatic effects of these inequities for all to see.
  • Differential access to parks is particularly instructive. Parks can be the public square, central to human health and expression. But that will never be a reality unless all are truly welcome and parks are accessible to all.
  • Black and Brown communities have often been excluded from the decision making process, amplified, at times, by not having the agency or capacity or access to participate.
  • Communities should not have to choose between getting affordable housing, parks, access to food, or jobs. All are vital to healthy communities. Community needs to become part of conservation.
  • There’s good work going on in all of this–in Richmond, the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and elsewhere–but conservationists need to rethink how to be involved.

This just scratches the surface of the conversation. If you missed it you can catch it here on YouTube (unfortunately a technical glitch caused us to miss recording the first few minutes). 

Coming Up Next: 

Over the next three weeks, we are holding three separate working sessions to surface issues, needs, and ideas related to public health, equity, and access to parks and green space:

  • October 14 — Focus on Urban Areas 
  • October 22 — Focus on Rural Areas
  • October 29 — Focus on Data and Analysis for Driving Equity in Health and Conservation

A final working meeting of the Partnership to pull together the ideas generated at these sessions is scheduled for November 17. It will focus on refining the strategies and actions for operationalizing the new public health goal. 

More information and registration links can be found here. Space is limited for each session. We hope you can join us for the session that best fits your work. 

The Partnership’s 2020 Annual Meeting is cosponsored by:

Lightning Update is a regular communication of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions of the Partnership or member organizations.
To share a success story, news, or important event, send your information to:

[email protected]

Support for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is provided by:
National Park Service Chesapeake
EPA Chesapeake Bay Program
USDA Forest Service
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Chesapeake Conservancy

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is co-convened by: