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By Miranda Alvarez, Community Engagement Manager
As the United States confronts visceral issues of inequity and racial injustice, organizations and industries hasten to look at their own operations to secure their spot on the right side of history. Here at the D&L, collaboration is integral to fulfilling our mission. It’s also vital to the holistic work of building a greener, more connected, and equitable future. The Lehigh Gap Nature Center’s (LGNC) Color of Nature initiative embodies this power of collaboration and community investment. Comprehensively, the program works to educate and equip a future of conservationists, natural resource professionals, and outdoor recreationists more representative of the widely diverse population of the Lehigh Valley.
Since 2012, Lehigh Gap Nature Center’s Color of Nature initiative fulfills a simple but critical mission: make the conservation field more inclusive. Their conviction that “nature should be enjoyed and valued by everyone” requires accessibility to nature for all communities. The small but mighty LGNC team seeks to do just that. Through their environmental leadership and mentor programming, LGNC equips youth in their very own backyard.
To date, the program has reached more than 10,000 youth and young adults. They teach environmental principles through educational partnerships, camps, and bilingual school programs. Color of Nature also trains and later employs program participants. As a result, they provide relevant professional experience to help facilitate futures as environmental professionals.
“As we look to the future of conservation and environmental justice, it is critical that key leaders and decision makers in the conservation field represent all of the diverse voices of our communities,” said Chad Schwartz, Director of Science & Education at LGNC. “Through community partnerships, the conservation field must actively work to recruit, train, and employ an inclusive constituency of people—with a particular focus on constituencies who have historically been left out of the conservation conversation.”
Color of Nature receives funding through the Lehigh Valley Greenways Mini Grants program. The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor administers these grants through the LVG partnership. In particular, funding is made possible by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
“Lehigh Gap is a role model for many within Lehigh Valley Greenways Partnership on how to excite a broader population about the wonders of nature and hopefully create a next generation of environmental enthusiasts that better represent our diverse communities,” said Claire Sadler, Deputy Director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and local lead for the Lehigh Valley Greenways Partnership. “Kids get more excited about professions where they have mentors that speak like them and look like them, so the Color of Nature initiative is making that possible in the conservation field.”
To learn more and support Lehigh Gap Nature Center’s efforts, visit: lgnc.org/education/color-of-nature-initiative/