Equity Practice

Why A Focus on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In the American West, where Native Fish Society works, white males make up the vast majority of fisheries scientists and managers. For example, 53% of the population is white, but 94% of fisheries scientists in academia and 91% of federal fisheries scientists are white. Three out of every four fisheries managers/scientists identifies as a man. Broadly speaking Native Fish Society reflects this lack of racial and gender diversity. Based on the best available information, less than 10% of our membership are folks in the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community. Less than 25% of our membership and volunteers identify as women. Through an organization-wide commitment, actions with accountabilities, and relationship building we are taking a proactive approach to dismantle the systemic barriers to women and people of color in our organization.

One way to advance these needs is by increasing the racial and gender diversity of our organization and field. Studies show that diverse teams focus more on facts, process facts more carefully, and are more innovative. Additionally, an increase in diversity can bring ways of knowing and stewarding fish, rivers, and watersheds that are more deeply rooted in place and sustainability.

Stewardship happens when community members work together to safeguard the land, air, water, and species we all depend on. In the United States, systemic racism and discrimination against communities of color creates barriers to enviornmental stewardship. Racism and discrimination has also concentrated pollution in communities of color. For example, landfills, hazardous waste sites, and other industrial facilities are most often located in communities of color. In the Pacific Northwest, native fish like salmon remind us that everything and everyone is downstream. To revive wild fish to abundance that swim in every corner of our region and throughout the ocean, we must work in unity to ensure no community’s clean air, water, or healthy lands is sacrificed.

Big coalitions of diverse communities are the best way to win the attention of decision-makers and make positive change happen. Research on non-violent public campaigns finds that mobilizing 3.5% of a population is required for a successful effort. In the Pacific Northwest, this means mobilizing over 500,000 people. To create this kind of groundswell Native Fish Society needs to be a leader in building a relevant and welcoming organization.

Equity Actions

From our Equity Strategy, we identify specific work to accomplish each year. Some of these items are individual tasks, which were completed. Other items are ongoing relational practices and areas of focus for our community. The goal is to continually engage in this relational work.

2019 Progress:

  • Identify and engage current relationships with communities of color, with a focus on Tribal Nations and indigenous communities
  • Inreach to tribes to learn about their concerns and areas of overlap and commonality
  • Create DEI team and standardize meeting schedule
  • Create DEI line item in 2019 budget
  • Include Equity Strategy priorities into staff work plans and performance reviews
  • Review and update mission, vision, and program whys through DEI lens
  • Incorporate DEI messaging into website, newsletter, events, and board meetings
  • Poll new River Stewards regarding incentives or resources that can better enable their advocacy and remove barriers
  • Develop sick leave policy
  • Review and implement co-created retirement plan with staff
  • Highlight our updated mission and vision on website
  • Incorporate annual review of vacation and assessment of work/life balance into year-end review
  • Complete Women for Wild Fish plan
  • Perform annual review and refinement of Equity Strategy

2020 Areas of Focus:

  • Continue in-reach to Tribal Nations and indigenous communities to learn about their concerns and areas of overlap and commonality
  • Identify the central ideas of NFS and develop lexicon that is inclusive around these ideas
  • Make DEI part of required board agenda; staff meetings; RS gatherings; public events
  • Every Conservation Campaign includes DEI component
  • Recruit a Board Member with DEI skills
  • Develop benchmarks for DEI skills and capacity as part of leadership considerations
  • Include training and capacity building as part of annual work plans
  • Implement Women for Wild Fish Plan - highlight women advocating for abundant wild fish and healthy rivers.
  • Partner and highlight organizations and people of color working to improve the environment

In 2016, Native Fish Society staff and board members recognized the need to increase the diversity, equity, and inclusion of the organization. In 2017, Native Fish Society staff applied for support from the Meyer Memorial Trust to build our knowledge and skills for this work with the guidance of the Center for Diversity and the Environment (CDE). Staff, board members, and partners from the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians participated in a 2-day diversity, equity and inclusion training. Later that year, staff, board members, and volunteers participated in a 3-day strategy session with CDE to build a plan for equity work at the Native Fish Society. In 2018, the Native Fish Society Equity Strategy was adopted by the board. In 2019, we created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team to identify opportunities, help troubleshoot challenges, share resources, and hold ourselves accountable for the work outlined in the plan. In 2020, the work continues with the help and guidance of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team.

We greatly appreciate Queta Gonzalez at the Center for Diversity and the Environment for her guidance as we have developed this practice as an organization. We also want to thank the Meyer Memorial Trust and the Oregon Community Foundation for supporting this work at the Native Fish Society.


Diversity: all of the ways we’re different, similar, and unique.

Equity: a guarantee of fair treatment, opportunity, access, and advancement, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

Inclusion: the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.

Culture: a social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of tacit rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, and styles of communication.

Equity Strategy

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