Mike Walker, Co-chair for FMN Outreach, attended portions of this 5 day Zoom conference, representing FMN. This was the third annual “Taking Nature Black” conference and the first to be virtual. The conference organizers, largely led by staff from the Audubon Naturalist Society for the DC region, identified a large panel of speakers, almost a “Who’s Who” of Black professionals working on environmental or natural history programs in various federal and state agencies, like the National Park Service or Fish and Wildlife, academia and non-profits. For many it seemed like a welcome reunion and an opportunity to get refocused and rejuvenated after the pandemic issues of the past year.
The conference featured a number of interesting panel discussions, such as Novel Ways of Protecting Our Waterways, Birding While Black, Agriculture Innovations and Food Insecurity and Democracy in the Parks. Notable keynote presentations featured Dr. Drew Lanham, Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Clemson University, and Dr. Thomas Easley, Dean of Community and Inclusion at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The conference website “Taking Nature Black Conference” is well worth taking a look at.
It was encouraging to see the diversity of interests represented by speakers on these panels, particularly regarding deep seated concerns to protect agricultural and undeveloped rural lands, issues that are also important to Master Naturalists. There was also a heavy emphasis on training for children and youth to appreciate and respect open spaces, particularly in urban settings. It was reassuring to learn that we have many allies in our effort to protect and preserve our natural environment.