Underrepresented Groups In Nature: History

Wisconsin Water Library > Water Library Blog > Underrepresented Groups In Nature: History

By India-Bleu Niehoff, Community Engaged Intern

In this two-part blog series, we will be exploring the history of underrepresented groups in nature, and groups and organizations that are collectively organizing to increase the recognition, voices and participation of those groups in nature.   

Part 1: History  

Access to nature is something that should be readily and freely available to all individuals. However, BIPOC and low-income individuals and communities have historically been restricted from accessing these resources and spaces. This is the result of a long history of discrimination and segregation in outdoor spaces, from the racist beliefs and actions of those spearheading conservation movements (read more about John Muir here), to the unspoken (but enforced) expectations of who is not only allowed but encouraged to spend time in nature. This history, and its implications, cannot (and shouldn’t) be reduced to a few paragraphs or even a few resources, but here are a few places to start. 


The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James Edward Mills. Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 2014. 

Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage by Dianne D. Glave. Chicago, Illinois: Lawrence Hill Books, 2010. 

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014. 

Online Resources: 

Short introductory resource to learn about underrepresented groups in nature, specifically their engagement with national parks: JSTOR Daily

Another great resource detailing history and current groups organizing: NC State University College of Natural Resources News

Incredibly in-depth article detailing the racial and economic disparities in access to nature, supplemented by extensive research: Center for American Progress

A look into the underrepresentation of ethnic groups specifically in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology: Springer Link

Short exploration of the underrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples on environmental community councils and their struggles in accessing funding: International Institute for Environment and Development

A 2019 research article that disrupts the mainstream narrative of Black people in nature, adding depth and nuance to a complex topic: Sage Publishing  

This recent Associated Press article that explores how underrepresented groups are starting to be recruited into conservation careers, with an emphasis on Wisconsin: Associated Press

Want to learn more about environmental justice in all its iterations? Check out the Water Library’s introduction to environmental justice with accumulated resources: https://waterlibrary.aqua.wisc.edu/ejlist/ 

Updated: September 28, 2023