Premieres 12/1 at 8pm ET
Watch exclusively on DailyWire+
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) will focus their resources on bringing in more non-white visitors to their state parks.
MDNR issued a renewed commitment to diversity following their latest quinquennial survey: the 2022 State Park Visitor Study, released Tuesday. In a press release, MDNR Parks and Trails Director Ann Pierce said the state agency needed to do more for inclusivity, in reference to their data that only 11 percent more visitors weren’t white.
“The visitor study shows that Minnesota DNR is making progress toward our goal of inclusivity, though there’s still more work to do,” said Pierce. “We will continue our efforts to expand access to public lands for traditionally underserved communities and to welcome new visitors to outdoor recreation in state parks.”
The study reported an increase of non-white visitors from five percent in 2017 to 11 percent last year. The survey may or may not reflect an accurate demographic of state park visitors, since it relies on voluntary participants; MDNR pulled their data from 2,000 interviews last summer.
The study divided participants into two groups: white and BIPOC (short for Black, Indigenous, or People of Color). Biracial and multiracial individuals were classified as BIPOC, along with any participants who reported to be American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian or Asian American, Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Middle Eastern, North African, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.
According to the study, state park visitors were more likely to be white, high income, and more highly educated than the rest of the Minnesota population. The study also reported that the visitors they interviewed had expressed a desire to “decolonize signage” and input more Indigenous history and voices in park programming, as well as expressed concerns over potentially experiencing microaggressions and the lack of diversity during their visit.
The results of this latest study echo prior MDNR recommendations to increase the focus of resources on diversity.
In April 2020, the MDNR convened the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Task Force. In March 2021, the task force issued final recommendations that MDNR make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a greater focus. The task force claimed that diversity was an economic asset since more the state’s BIPOC and “gender identity” populations were growing, and claimed that the state was losing $16 billion GDP annually due to racial disparities, citing a 2014 report from PolicyLink and the University of Southern California (USC) Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE).
PolicyLink is a left-leaning California-based nonprofit that pulls in tens of millions annually ($83.4 million per their latest tax filing) and advocates for progressive causes, such as expanding the welfare state and government-controlled health care.
In the weeks leading up to the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, MDNR launched a social media campaign encouraging DEI on public lands and waters. MDNR partnered with Share the Mic MN, one of the many racial justice activist campaigns that launched following Floyd’s death.
Share the Mic MN had black and brown women “share the mic,” i.e. take over the social media accounts of white “allies.” The Edina Community Foundation manages the campaign and serves as a partner, along with the U.S. Bank Foundation, Minneapolis Foundation, and Allianz.
— Minnesota DNR (@mndnr) May 14, 2021
MDNR also co-manages a collegiate career program, Increasing Diversity in Environmental Careers, that excludes white males. Only individuals who identify as women, BIPOC, and/or disabled are eligible. MNDR partners with the Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to manage the program.
In an interview earlier this week, the principal planner for MDNR Parks and Trails, Gratia Joice, told Minnesota Public Radio that she and other state workers were encouraged by more non-white visitors frequenting their parks.
“This is something we were really excited to see,” said Joice. “The survey shows increasing diversity among state park visitors, specifically visitors of color, from five percent in 2017 to 11 percent in 2022.”
However, Joice also shared that MDNR is attempting to achieve parity between the population demographics and state park visitor demographics.
The Census Bureau estimates Minnesota’s white population (not Hispanic or Latino) at around 77.6 percent, black or African American at 7.6 percent, American Indian and Alaska Native at 1.4 percent, Asian at 5.5 percent, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander at .1 percent, biracial or multiracial at 2.8 percent, Hispanic or Latino at six percent.
Per MDNR’s classification of BIPOC, the benchmark for racial parity would be at or above 23.4 percent.
“While it is an improvement, there’s still work to be done,” said Joice.