PCTA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Photo by Nok Yan Joshua Leung.

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy time outdoors. When people have meaningful experiences outdoors, their quality of life, health, and social well-being improve. We believe that everyone should have access to the Pacific Crest Trail and feel welcomed in our trail community. PCTA acknowledges systemic racism and other social injustices and their impact on the PCT community. We have begun the journey of evaluating and understanding what we can do to change the systems within our organization and address these injustices. We welcome diversity and aim to be an accessible and inclusive community that honors and respects the various ways people connect with the PCT and mentors the next generation of trail stewards.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association’s mission is focused on ensuring the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail remains open and accessible to all people now and in the future. Centering our work in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion will improve our ability to meet this mission and strengthen the PCTA’s work. We wholeheartedly invite everyone, regardless of their individual identities, to enjoy the PCT and engage in the work of the PCTA. We are stronger when we work together.

What do we mean by diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?

Diversity – understanding, appreciating, and embracing differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, health, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical size, education level, job level, veteran status, personality traits, and other human differences.

Equity – acknowledging and dismantling barriers to create conditions that allow everyone to reach their full potential. This means actively elevating individuals that are traditionally underrepresented so that all people can recreate, volunteer, and enjoy the PCT.

Inclusion – an inclusive organization/ trail community promotes and sustains a sense of belonging where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized.

What does DEI and racism have to do with the PCT and PCTA?

Guided by our mission and vision, we value trails and non-human nature, but also people and communities. As people within our trail community, we all have different lived experiences both on and off the trail that are influenced by race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical/mental ability, socio-economic status, and many other visible and invisible identities. The PCTA is committed to listening to, understanding, and welcoming all these experiences as we support a more inclusive culture. It is, however, important to look specifically at race in the outdoors and in our PCT community as we think about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

According to the U.S. Census, people of color make up 40% of the U.S. population and that percentage is expected to grow. The PCTA’s board, staff, and volunteers do not reflect this statistic. Only 5% of PCTA staff and board are people of color and only 11% of volunteers that reported their race in 2019 and 8% who reported in 2020 are people of color. We asked ourselves, “why?”

The answer is much deeper than economic disparities, which can financially limit access to the PCT. The history of the United States is marred with racist beliefs and oppressive systems that exclude certain groups from experiencing the many joys our country has to offer. The history of the environmental movement is no different. While we acknowledge the important accomplishments of early conservationists, we recognize their legacy is built upon the forced removal of Indigenous people from their ancestral homelands. As another example, for many years segregation laws prevented Black people from accessing parks, campgrounds, beaches, and trails in the same way that white people have always been able to.

We have heard from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) members of our community that the continued emphasis on white people and their perspectives on public lands and the outdoors have made many feel unwelcome and unsafe in these spaces. BIPOC and other marginalized individuals frequently find their experiences, perspectives, and voices silenced. In the summer of 2020 over 300 PCTA members signed an open letter addressed to PCTA expressing these concerns. These members and others shared their personal experiences of racism and implicit bias on the PCT and on trail maintenance projects—and we believe them.

Commitments and Next Steps

Unlike a hike with a defined end, our DEI commitment is an ongoing journey as we work to transform our internal culture and external programs to best support the PCT, its users and our mission. In July members of PCTA’s staff and board will be meeting with the Center for Diversity and the Environment to work on a DEI action plan. During this planning process, we will focus on the following organizational DEI commitments to guide our planning discussions:

  • The PCTA is committed to making our organization more diverse and our culture more inclusive.
  • The PCTA is committed to amplifying stories and experiences from BIPOC community members in our communications and honoring the many ways people connect to the PCT and outdoor spaces.
  • The PCTA is committed to broadening our partnerships and advocating for legislation that addresses barriers and promotes equitable access to the PCT and public lands.

As an organization, we will be evaluating our history and current systems and programs to identify strategies and benchmarks to measure our progress towards meeting our commitments above. We value transparency and will continue to communicate about our action plans and progress with our community.

Interested in learning more about our DEI work? We will be regularly publishing updates in our member magazine, the PCT Communicator, and on our blog. To see more information about what steps PCTA has taken to date, please see our blog post from April 2021.

If you would like to engage with us in our DEI work, work with us to share your story with the PCT community or are interested in partnering with the PCTA please feel to reach out to Megan Wargo at [email protected].

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