Early in June, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) shared a letter titled “A Commitment to Justice,” orienting our mission and work to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). This commitment was based on the understanding that every individual and organization has the responsibility to work toward justice — including the ATC. It is also based on the understanding that this work will be a journey. As stated in the letter by Sandi Marra, ATC’s president and CEO: “We have taken some steps… but a lot of work remains.”
Part of this work belongs to the ATC Board of Directors. As the group that provides oversight and guidance to the organization, the board will undertake the same journey toward justice as ATC staff and will give it our full and purposeful attention.
The ATC began this journey several years ago with an initiative we called “Broader Relevancy.” ATC staff made significant progress in educating themselves, engaging with diverse groups, forming partnerships, forming the Next Generation Advisory Council, and setting the stage for the current attention on JEDI which, as a result, has been a focus in ATC’s strategic planning process over the last year. I am proud of what they have accomplished and view their progress as an aspiration for the ATC Board and broader Appalachian Trail community.
Collectively, the board’s work is based on an acknowledgement that we have much to learn, and we must be willing to be educated. In light of this, several months ago, the ATC Board initiated its own JEDI journey; we have formed a task force whose purpose is to establish the framework for this work and bring forth meaningful actions based on a thorough and thoughtful dialogue. While this work can be uncomfortable, the greatest and most durable lessons are often uncomfortable.
We also have undertaken a review of our nominating and recruiting practices given the lack of diverse representation on the ATC Board. Our aim is to broaden the board’s profile with thoughtful people whose life experiences offer a breadth of perspectives. Authentic inclusion creates an environment for more meaningful discussions.
We must “walk the talk.” ATC’s Board is committed to this learning, to opening our minds and hearts to listen and, finally, to acting. We do not view this as optional. We must embrace justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do.
Chair / Appalachian Trail Conservancy Board of Directors