Respond, Reflect, and Renew: National Wildlife Federation’s 2020 In the Rocky Mountain West
I don’t have to tell you how difficult 2020 has been, but I am proud of how the people, programs, and supporters of the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountain Region have taken these unprecedented challenges head-on. We have collectively responded and adapted to the pandemic, reflected on systemic inequities, and renewed our commitment to improving ourselves and our work to positively impact the communities we serve. As we look to 2021 we remain hopeful and purposeful in advancing our mission to help people and wildlife thrive in our uncertain future and value your support along the way.
First and foremost, as the gravity of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, we responded swiftly and made sure to take care of our people. We kept all staff employed and are providing flexible schedules and mental health support, so we achieve meaningful work while allowing each individual to adapt. By stabilizing our team, we’ve been able to rally for some truly impressive progress in 2020:
- Providing relief through nature: Our Early Childhood Health Outdoors team has provided COVID-19 Resources that are helping keep our youngest children safe and healthy during the pandemic while empowering over 1000 educators and parents across the continent to take kids outside.
- Highlighting disparities and identifying solutions: Working with Hispanics Enjoying Camping Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO), the National Wildlife Federation highlighted the effects of the pandemic and social justice crises by hosting a series of roundtables, including a Southwest Environmental Justice Roundtable with Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization. The roundtable series concluded with a National Townhall on Environmental Justice and Frontline Communities and a summary of findings, which details recommendations to address issues raised by frontline leaders.
- Remaining vigilant: We made sure that our public lands, water, and wildlife were not collateral damage from this crisis as the Administration continued to pillage our natural resources under the cloud of the pandemic. We leveraged our advocacy team and online channels, including HECHO’s work to highlight the travesty of a federal move to open up uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.
- Unifying people through conservation wins: Our bipartisan persistence pushed forward a conservation win of epic proportions with the biggest land and water legislation of a generation—the Great American Outdoors Act. We also conserved nearly 20,000 acres for Colorado’s bighorns by working with local ranchers, with the potential to conserve tens of thousands more with added funding.
- Supporting community-identified needs: Through the support of HECHO’s network of Hispanic leaders, our continued success in advocating for buffalo restoration on Tribal lands, and the elevation of Tribal voices for the Colorado River, we have helped to to fortify the people and communities that are leading the way in this work for wildlife and our public lands.
- Nearby nature right at home: Through fun and informative videos we’ve shared the light-hearted spirit of the RMRC with ways to interact and enjoy nature without even leaving your home.
We strongly believe disruption can lead to positive change. We also believe what is good for wildlife is good for people. That means all people. To really grow in the direction of justice we grapple with challenging and enriching questions, including:
- How have we, as an 84-year-old conservation organization, either combatted or contributed to racism and inequalities that exist in our society? And, how have our practices stifled the very conservation movement we’re trying to grow, to be inclusive of all people who have the ability to adopt a conservation ethic?
- What can we do to build more authentic relationships to serve as true partners with all Western communities, and step back when needed?
- Ultimately, how do we improve our work for the betterment of all people and wildlife?
It is clear that this work is ongoing. As we foster deeper and more equitable partnerships with the region’s many Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, we are seeking ways to advance community-identified work. We are evaluating and improving our staff competencies when it comes to equity and justice. We are incorporating environmental justice into all of our program work. And we are holding ourselves accountable for positive change.
As the pandemic continues and our nation is rife with division, the Rocky Mountain Regional Center renews our commitment to being a force for healing. With your help, we can and will be the most inclusive and powerful conservation organization in the West, bringing together communities of all walks of life under the common goal of creating a thriving future for people and nature.
We will devote the time needed to build authentic relationships, ask what is needed, and build solutions together. We will strengthen our networks with Black and Latinx leaders around the West, listen to Tribal partners who live on the margins, connect with rural ranchers, hunters, and anglers, and identify a role for NWF to meet the needs of people and wildlife from backyards and balconies to the backcountry. We commit to using our position of power and privilege to elevate voices of our members, communities, and grassroots partners that have traditionally been excluded, silenced, or marginalized.
2020 has been a tough one, but we are committed to becoming a better organization because of it. With your continued support, we are able to expand our work, grow our networks, and set the groundwork for a better future. Please consider donating so we can continue making an impact for people and wildlife everywhere. Together, we will heal and be stronger than ever before.