In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating and highlighting black figures in conservation and nature! Check out a few of these amazing people who are fighting for the environment or working on making a more inclusive great outdoors.

“You can reclaim that which is African right in our national parks because all it means is a connection, a spiritual connection, an emotional connection with the earth itself.” 

Shelton Johnson, a long-time National Park Service Ranger and advocate for diversity in nature, is working to connect people of color to the great outdoors. At his current post in Yosemite National Park, Johnson focuses on outreach to culturally diverse communities and sharing the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, African American troops who were the stewards of national parks like Yosemite and Sequoia well before park rangers were established.

“The trees don’t know what color I am. The birds don’t know what gender is. The flowers don’t know how much money I have in my bank account. I think we can rely on nature to be the equalizer for us so we can shed that weight.”

Rue Mapp is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a barrier-busting nonprofit that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. Learn more about Rue and Outdoor Afro here:

“Part of the mystery of walking is that the destination is inside us and we really don’t know when we arrive until we arrive.”

In 1972, following a massive oil spill in San Francisco Bay, John Francis gave up motor transportation. He walked everywhere he went, including treks across the U.S. and through South America, for 22 years bringing attention to environmental issues. Today, he continues advocacy through his environmental awareness organization, Planetwalk.

We’ve loved highlighting extraordinary black environmentalists and nature lovers this month, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn, grow, and celebrate year-round. If you’d like to learn about more black figures in nature or want to know more about Black History Month, check out the links below!

Additional Resources:

Celebrating Black Environmentalists
The Continuing Importance of Black History Month
Black History Month: Origin and 2021 Theme