From Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Equity Team

The past few months have been devastating, laying bare historical, widespread racial inequities and systemic violence that Black Americans have endured for centuries. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities, and Asian American communities have seen spikes in racist incidents, including verbal and physical attacks since the onset of the virus.

These injustices were felt in the birding community on Memorial Day when Christian Cooper, a Black man, was doing what so many of us in the Bird Alliance of Oregon community love and value: birding in nature. After Cooper asked a White woman to leash her dog within a protected area of Central Park, she called the police, intentionally cited his race, and weaponized her power and privilege against him. While for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) this experience was both enraging and familiar, for many White nature lovers, this video unmasked how unsafe the outdoors is for many.


Later on that very same day, George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis. He joins a long list of Black people, adults and children, who have been killed as a direct result of over 400 years of systemic racism. From Tony McDade to Breonna Taylor, to Ahmaud Arbery to Trayvon Martin, to Kendra James to Tamir Rice, the list is long and painful. Each day, we add more names to that list. And yet this violence continues, most often with little or no consequence.

These events are connected, and part of a system that perpetuates violence and inequality. Systemic racism permeates every aspect of our lives, from our justice system to health care to the environment.

BIPOC communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change, pollution, and other major environmental hazards, yet the conservation movement is grappling with a racist history of keeping BIPOC voices at arm’s length, often not sharing the table or listening to solutions from the communities that are most impacted. 

It is long past time that we all stand up against these injustices, reckon with our past, and start to reimagine systems that have left the health and lives of Black people in their wake. As a white-dominant organization, it is critical that we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and work together to actively dismantle systems of oppression that have targeted the Black community for centuries. At Bird Alliance of Oregon, that means increasing our speed and commitment to educate ourselves and implement internal changes as we pledge to become an actively anti-racist organization. 

Bird Alliance of Oregon commits to:

  • Increasing our support—financial and otherwise—for BIPOC partner organizations
  • Centering more BIPOC voices as experts in the environmental movement
  • Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work and practice for our staff, board, and volunteers, understanding that the community is watching
  • Hiring more BIPOC at all levels of the organization
  • Reinvesting in creating an anti-racist work culture
  • Becoming an inclusive and supportive organization that our community can be proud of.

We recognize the “people” in our mission: “Bird Alliance of Oregon inspires all people to love and protect birds, wildlife, and the natural environment upon which we depend.” We have worked to build coalitions around conservation efforts that have impacted marginalized communities, and forged partnerships with BIPOC-led community-based organizations to break down historical barriers to the environment for children, youth, and families.

AND we must do more. AND this work cannot be done without all of you.

We know that Bird Alliance of Oregon still has a long way to go toward addressing our own role in racism as an organization. We will continue working to center the voices and goals of frontline communities most affected by environmental injustices, deepen our relationships with those frontline communities, listen, and further expand our Bird Alliance of Oregon community while helping lead it through anti-racist environmental justice actions.  

The time to create space for BIPOC voices is overdue. Let us make that space now. We hope that the many voices featured in this issue will highlight some of the work of BIPOC folx in the environmental movement and center their contributions to the health and well-being of all wildlife, people, and the environment. 


Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Equity Team