Black History Month: Celebrating Leadership in Natural Resources

February 15, 2023

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QCNR is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting contributions from activists, managers and scholars in natural spaces.

Rue Mapp
Rue Mapp: Outdoor Afro Founder & CEO

Rue attributes her passion for the outdoors to her father, who was a Black cowboy in Oakland, California. She found that many people in the outdoors didn’t look like her, and created Outdoor Afro to highlight her personal experiences as a Black woman in nature. Her network now reaches 40,000 people with in-person activities and 50,000 online. She was honored as one of the most influential African Americans with The Root 100 award and participated in Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Conference at the White House.

Shelton Johnson
Shelton Johnson: Park Ranger

Shelton Johnson became a ranger for the National Park Service in 1987 and focused his career on making the national parks an inclusive, welcoming environment for all. He brought attention to parks through his storytelling in Ken Burn’s film: The National Parks-America’s Best Idea, and hosted a televised camping trip for Oprah and Gayle King in which they encouraged members of the Black community to visit. Johnson currently serves as community engagement specialist in Yosemite NP, focusing on retelling the stories of the first African American national park rangers, the “Buffalo Soldiers.” 

Warren Morton Washington
Warren Morton Washington: Climate Scientist

Warren Morton Washington is a pioneer in the fields of atmospheric science and climate research. In 1975 he developed one of the first atmospheric computer models of the earth’s climate, which became foundational to climate research thereafter. Washington has been at the forefront of climate change research for decades, serving as scientific advisor to six U.S. presidential administrations. In 2020 the American Meteorological Society created the Warren Washington Research and Leadership Medal in his honor. 

Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai: Scholar & Activist

Wangari Maathai (1940–2011) founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya to encourage women to plant trees to combat deforestation and environmental degradation. Maathai used this as a springboard in the struggle against abuses of power, including land-grabbing and illegal detention. She was elected Kenya’s Member of Parliament, serving as Assistant Minister for Environmental & Natural Resources. She was the first African woman and environmentalist to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”