California’s First And Only Black-Led Land Trust Acquires 650 Acres, Prepares To Break Ground

The 40 Acre Conservation League, California’s first and only Black-led land trust, acquired 650 acres of land in Placer County last year, and it is now preparing to break ground.

“The Placer County land, located 70 miles northeast of Sacramento, features 650 acres of open space with lakes and trails the group plans to open to the public,” and the nonprofit used grant funding provided by two conservation groups, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Board.

This is the first major purchase and quite an accomplishment for an organization founded less than three years ago. In discussing what inspired her, founder Jade Stevens said that “[a]fter a year of watching state leaders respond to protests following the police murder of George Floyd, [she] decided to take action by addressing equity issues in an area she was passionate about — the outdoors,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Steven’s goal is to create more opportunities for people of color, especially Black people, in nature and the great outdoors.  

The 40 Acre Conservation League’s name derives from the the Union Army’s failed promise to provide “40 acres and a mule” to emancipated slaves in the south. Stevens refers to the group as “a ‘modern day Special Field Order 15,’ the name of the order initially promising the land.”

“Our acquisition of 650 acres represents more than an initiative to protect the environment; it is the manifestation of Dr. King’s words that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’” Stevens told ESSENCE.

“This project is the first under our Greenbook Initiative, where we are creating spaces in the Great Outdoors where all people can feel safe, accommodated, and comfortable. It features a 30 acre lake, cliff side views, and we are planning recreational activities, unique camping experiences, and elevated treehouse stays,” continued Stevens.

In an interview with Cap Radio, Stevens discussed how “[f]or some reason, here in California, there have just been too many experiences where people don’t feel safe or welcome or able to find activities outdoors that feel culturally relevant. We’ve hosted programs like Black Conservation Week and even our climate change exchange summit, where we’re having conversations with the community to just talk about some of the things that make communities feel unwelcome.”

“That’s a huge barrier because I really believe that people of color, specifically Black people, love the outdoors,” added Stevens.

This purchase is part of the organization’s larger mission to continue developing spaces for recreation, “that are publicly accessible, safe and accommodating and that lift barriers to participating in the nearly half-billion dollar U.S. outdoor economy.”

In addition, it is contributing to President Biden’s 30×30 conservation plan, which strives to protect 30% of our nation’s lands and waters by the year 2030, specifically aiming “to conserve more than 25,000 acres of land by 2030.”

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