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Preserving California's Urban Oases & Still-Wild Places: A Testament to LWCF’s Impact


By Jade Stevens

In urban communities two things have happened: (1) advocacy for open space has manifested as exclusionary racism in clothed as conservation, and (2) it feels like the money for conservation doesn’t find its way to our communities.

40 Acre Conservation League, California’s first Black-led land trust, was founded to reimagine how conservation can benefit all people, especially people of color. The roots of land conservation are exclusionary, an affront to all people of color, especially Native Americans and Black Americans. However, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF) has had a transformative effect in creating some of the wealthiest Black communities in America.

While not a perfect program, its impact can be felt in Black communities across the state. The communities of South Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire, the East Bay, Sacramento County, and Central Valley Communities have collectively received millions of dollars of investments to bring nature closer to home.

For Black people, who are overwhelmingly concentrated in California’s urban areas, having green spaces is extremely important for both physical and mental health, especially in the hood. There are too studies that are showing correlations between poor mental health and urbanization.

I can personally testify that LWCF investments in Baldwin Hills are not merely figures on paper; they're the lifeblood of the communities of Baldwin Hills, Ladera, View Park, and Windsor Hills. These funds, in partnership with the Baldwin Hills Conservancy’s investments, have helped support the trails, scenic overlook, and natural spaces that keep us from feeling confined in the community. This is how conservation should support Black neighborhoods, to provide spaces where we gather, we play, and we feel alive.

Our newest Senator, Laphonza Butler, has an opportunity to both protect these funds from being clawed back in the U.S. Senate, and ensure this money arrives in our communities. Baldwin Hills is a national model of urban conservation. It’s time to do more and replicate this model!
Jade Stevens serves as president of the 40 Acre Conservation League.