At its core, outdoor equity embodies the belief that every person should have access to clean water and air, as well as parks and open spaces. This means that every person should have the ability to experience the great outdoors regardless of income, location, race, or age.
Outdoor equity funds are a key mechanism to increase access to public lands and recreation. These stated-based grant programs offer resources to organizations that are working to increase access to the outdoors for youth and families from communities that have not historically had equitable access to nature. While the creation of outdoor equity funds is relatively new, the barriers they seek to address are not.
Research shows that there is a nature gap. An American Progress report found that the United States has fewer forests, streams, and other natural places near where Black, Latino, and Asian American people live. People of color, families with children, and low-income communities are most likely to be deprived of the benefits that nature provides. These benefits include things like better health and well-being, connection to each other and to their natural environments, enjoyment through outdoor recreation, and a deeper awareness of the need for conservation. Across the West, the unfortunate reality is many people don’t have access to these benefits of our public lands.
Outdoor equity funds are a start at addressing these systemic problems. These funds seek to combat these barriers while also acknowledging the role that historical and present environmental and social injustices have on outdoor accessibility for these communities. Outdoor equity funds are developed to intentionally provide secure funding opportunities for underserved communities or groups, most commonly youth, for the purpose of increasing their access to the outdoors and natural spaces.