Despite its challenges, 2021 was a transformative year for expanding equitable access to nature and building an outdoors that is truly for everyone. Many of those victories were due in no small part to the work done by Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign.
Let’s take a look.
- Expanding Park Equity. About 100 million people, including 28 million children, do not have access to a quality park within 10-minutes of home. The Department of the Interior took a major step to address this problem this year, committing $150 million to the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program (ORLP). The Sierra Club advocated for the program’s protection and expansion, and now ORLP is a central feature of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s America the Beautiful initiative.
- Improving Public Transit to Trails. The Departments of the Interior and Transportation took steps to increase access to national parks and improve options to get there in a pollution-free ride, including the electrification of public transit fleets, building more electric vehicle charging stations, and increasing the number of shared bikes and scooters. Along with our Clean Transportation for All campaign, this is a key goal for our campaign. In Los Angeles, we’re working with our partners in the Nature for All coalition to create bus routes that will connect nearby communities with the San Gabriel Mountains, an area we have worked to protect and activate for more than a decade.
- Partnering to Get Kids Outdoors. We worked to expand the impact of the federal Every Kid Outdoors program by advocating for state park systems to participate in the program. This year saw a major victory with the establishment of California’s State Park Adventure Pass, which opens 19 state parks to fourth graders and their families for free. And in Detroit, we’ve fully activated the Scout Hollow campground in Rouge Park and have plans to launch additional parks to provide valuable close-to-home park access for thousands of kids.
- More Veterans Healing in Nature. In New York, our team led a government-commissioned task force to establish an Outdoor Rx program across the state, which will dismantle barriers preventing veterans from healing on public lands. We launched a partnership with Y-USA to bring our veterans outings programs to four cities. And on Veterans Day, we launched a national Military Outdoors Coalition that will expand opportunities for the military and veteran communities to get outdoors.
- Making Public Lands More Welcoming and Inclusive. The Department of the Interior launched a task force to review and replace racist and derogatory place names among our country’s geographic features. Our campaign is dedicated to making the outdoors more welcoming to all, and we’re looking forward to engaging with this task force going forward.
- Establishing a Civilian Climate Corps. The House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act, which includes funding for a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC). For years, the Outdoors for All campaign has advocated for the expansion of conservation corps across the country. If enacted, this modern CCC will be instrumental in increasing equitable access to nature and building up the green infrastructure we need to take on the climate crisis.
We won significant victories in 2021, but our work isn’t finished. We’ve expanded the EKO pass program, but it still only reaches a fraction of the children and families it could benefit. We secured more funding for urban parks, but congressional negotiations cut additional expansions we fought for. And we still need to pass the Build Back Better Act.
We’re preparing for a busy 2022, but that work wouldn’t be possible without all the successes our team achieved this year. Thank you to all of our staff, volunteers, and action-takers for your support in 2021. Let’s keep it going in 2022.