18. Justice and Inclusion 2

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Justice and Inclusion in Native Plant Conservation and Equitable Access to Nature 2

Friday, October 21 at 10:00-11:40 am, Pine Room

*note alternate instance of this session – Thursday at 10am

Session Description: Low-income and communities of color continue to have less access to nature and career opportunities in the conservation field.  This session will showcase areas where the native plant conservation field can support movements to create more accessible parks, career pathways, and opportunities for those who have the least access to nature.

Session Chair: André Sanchez (CalWild, Madera, CA)

18.1 Engaging Diverse Young Adults in the NPS through Environmental Stewardship

Antonio J. Solorio (National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California)

During this discussion, we will hear from Park Ranger – Antonio Solorio how the National Park Service aims to meet environmental conservation goals and specific youth development targets through inclusive community engagement and culturally appropriate programming.

The following guiding questions will be addressed in this session:

 · How can programs reach beyond environmental goals and meet youth development objectives for participants?

 · How important is it to include families and their communities in program activities?

 · In what ways do organizations need to adjust program goals and delivery to help youth and their communities feel comfortable, welcomed, and contributory? 

18.2 Urban parks as a bridge to green careers: an apprenticeship program at literacy for environmental justice engages youth in research, advocacy, restoration, and education

Russ Aguilar (Literacy for Environmental Justice)

The presentation will begin with a brief introduction of the presenter, Russ Aguilar, and his ~12 years in environmental education and outreach, especially where such work pertains to urban communities. He will highlight best practices in communicating with urban communities and examine ecophobia. Next, he will discuss how he came to Literacy for Environmental Justice and provide an overview of the organization’s history and mission. He will describe how the Urban Greening program was able to expand during the pandemic while the Community Programs were largely halted.  He will give an overview of actions, trainings, and activities EcoApprentices have performed prior to the pandemic as well as highlighting some of the excellent places many have ended up in their careers in conservation, including as LEJ partners. Then, he will describe how he brought together a team of Apprentices for the 2022 season and created a curriculum and work plan along themes of Research, Advocacy, Restoration and Education. Using images and testimonials from the Apprentices, Russ will share stories of successes and challenges experienced through the 2022 summer season, and showcase the work performed by EcoApprentices, including the presentation of their environmental health monitoring to a local oversight board. Russ will demonstrate how the skills and abilities learned by the Apprentices can serve them in immediate as well as the far future landscape of their green careers. He will describe what the Apprentices’ plans are for their futures at the end of the program, as well as how the Apprentice program that will start in 2023 will be informed by the experience of the 2022 cohort. Russ will describe the funding sources for the program as well as statewide funding sources for similar programs and the key partnerships and resources that were utilized for the success of the EcoApprentice program for organizations that might be interested in creating a career development program.

18.3 Why native plant conservation efforts must include historically marginalized communities, and how to make it happen

Sam Weiser (Sequoia Riverlands Trust, The Environmental Science Academy at Monache High School, Visalia, CA, USA)

We have lived alongside and relied upon plants since the beginning of human history, and plants have always been a way for humans to connect with new communities and cultures. They can act like a universal language, allowing groups with language barriers to communicate and connect through shared meals, trading, and other cultural practices. The native plant conservation community can and should use this to help it achieve its goal of conserving native plants. In order to successfully conserve native plants in California, the conservation community will have to connect with and empower historically marginalized communities. During this presentation, we will discuss why this is beneficial to both of these groups. We will also look at some examples of research from groups like the Audubon Society and anecdotes from members of the conservation community that further demonstrate this point. Once we have looked at why it is important for historically marginalized communities to be connected to and empowered by involvement in native plant conservation, we will look at how this can be achieved. The three main areas we will focus on are: understanding and breaking down barriers to access to natural spaces, native plant nurseries, educational information about native plants, and more; bringing native plants and conservation projects directly to people within their communities; and spending time working within those communities creating career pathways leading to native plant conservation careers for young people from these communities.

18.4 Sciencely Handmade: Reconnecting urban people with native plants through science-based handmade jewelry and a multicultural lens

Annie Chen (Sciencely Handmade)

Increasing urbanization results in the human disconnection with nature and native species of the area in question. The California Floristic Province covers 70% of the state’s landscape, yet 95% of the Californian population live in an urbanized area and have a general lack of knowledge about native plants. To raise awareness on native plants among the urban community, I craft Sciencely Handmade jewelry with a story for wearers to easily engage in science communication. Through a multicultural lens as an environmental scientist-designer for Sciencely Handmade with a Taiwanese and San Francisco Bay Area background, I combine my craftsmanship, scientific training, and multicultural viewpoint to create and utilize native species-inspired jewelry as a medium for science communication. While studying at the University of California, Davis and working in Taiwan, I’ve noticed a cultural trend among Californians to use compliments on outfits as a conversation starter, so I craft jewelry that highlight different plant species’ characteristics using wire and resin that can be worn by interested individuals. Furthermore, I also conduct extensive scientific and cultural research on the subjects by comparing academic literature in English and Chinese, which are then simplified, translated, and provided to these interested individuals so they are equipped with knowledge to open up a casual science communication dialogue.To attract a wider audience of community members, I have hosted events such as pop-ups and online docent tours to introduce native plants jewelry in the form of casual and multilingual conversations, including a science-art presentation at the 11th Bay-Delta Biennial Science Conference. By hosting interactive events with Sciencely Handmade native plant-inspired jewelry as the main subject, the brand has continued to inspire reconnection with nature among urban community members of various cultural, linguistic, and professional backgrounds.

18.5 Human Habitat: Equity and Collaboration in Green Infrastructure Design

Aliya A. Ingersoll (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C, USA) 

Green infrastructure (GI) can provide more equitable access to nature and greenspace, enhance habitat connectivity and provide refugia for native plant and animal species, and provide nature-based solutions to stormwater flooding and urban heat island effect. However, large-scale urban GI projects carry the risks demonstrated by so-called “urban renewal” projects, including increased property speculation and displacement of the communities these projects are intended to benefit. I conducted a synthesis of findings from case studies, reports, and published literature and identified the following practices as high priorities for advancing equity and ecosystem services in GI projects: community engagement and involvement in siting, design, and implementation of projects; tenant protections and affordable housing development as concurrent policy provisions of park and greenway redevelopment; prioritizing local businesses and individuals for contracts and employment; and the collection of use and visitation data. To support these findings as best practices for large-scale GI projects and their adoption for equitable and ecologically beneficial GI development projects, I highlight case studies and ongoing projects that accomplish or prioritize these goals through collaborative and community-driven models. Concurrently, I make the case for a theoretical statewide “hub and link” model of green infrastructure project tracking intended to identify gaps in human access to nature, high priority areas for native plant restoration, conservation, and habitat linkage, and frontline communities in greatest need of ecosystem services provided by GI, with the intention of highlighting opportunity areas for multiple-benefit, collaborative GI and restoration projects.

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Please join us in thanking our major sponsors for making this year’s event possible! Become a sponsor today.

Giant Sequoia


Valley Oak


Moulton Niguel Water District

White Sage

H.T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants
East Bay Municipal Utility District

Melo Gardens

California Poppy

Westervelt Ecological Services

Carol Witham

Jepson Herbarium
Helix Environmental Planning