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CRBC Executive Director Cheryl McGinnis’ statement on the Black Lives Matter movement, the coronavirus pandemic, and how CRBC can better support the community during these trying times

The world has fundamentally changed since our last newsletter. The novel coronavirus pandemic forces us into isolation, disrupting our ability to gather, to connect. It makes us re-imagine how we can fulfill our obligations.

The death of George Floyd forces a re-examination of our national identity and demands each of us explore our shadows, expose our prejudices, and commit with conviction to act against racism.

The CRBC, in a transition period with our staff for much of the spring, remained largely silent on these issues. Given that the first step in confronting racism is ending oneís own silent compliance, I hope youíll forgive our absence in these conversations and accept our resolve as we affirm: Black Lives do Matter.

Black lives matter always; while living within the Clackamas River Basin; while drinking water born from sparkling springs and while working in our community, in our forests and on our farms.

Black lives matter while fishing, rafting, kayaking, birding, hiking, camping, horseback riding, cycling, running, walking, or otherwise playing in and enjoying the amazing outdoors we share.

As a watershed council, our avowed mission reads: “To foster partnerships for clean water and to improve fish and wildlife habitat and the quality of life for those who live, work and recreate in the watershed.” We believe our organization works to benefit all of our community members and we are committed to understand how we can better support our neighbors of color.

On July 8th, our staff and members of our board of directors attended a Cascade Employers Association training on “Unpacking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Along with nearly 50 people from other organizations in Oregon, we discussed race, whiteness and American culture and learned about the history of racism in Oregon including while becoming a state. We also assessed our organization’s Racial Justice engagement. I am humbled to acknowledge that CRBC has overlooked racial justice initiatives in our programming, power dynamics, personnel and organizational culture.

While we have made efforts in the past to be more inclusive, CRBC staff and board are committed to reviewing opportunities we have overlooked through sharply focused discussions. The intent will be to involve all communities to benefit and participate in our work. We must find ways to seek more partnerships with Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). We must partner and collaborate with minority organizations and businesses to optimize community benefits that we strive to achieve and reevaluate how we can serve our mission of environmental health while striving for environmental justice.

While we continue these conversations internally and with our constituents, we must also acknowledge that African-Americans and Latino/Latina people are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Due to a variety of factors, including working and living conditions, non-Hispanic Black individuals are 5 times more likely than non-Hispanic white people, and Hispanic or Latino/Latina people are 4 times as likely as non-Hispanic white people to test positive for COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The CRBC therefore stands with public health officials as we are all reminded to wear masks when going out in public, to avoid touching our faces as much as possible, to stay home when sick, and to support community efforts to endure the pandemic. Please wear a mask to protect health – yours, your family and friends’, and others’.

Weíve adjusted our operations due to the pandemic. Our staff has been working remotely since March, staggering our in-office time with limited office visits, and we continue to hold our Board of Directors and Executive Council Meetings virtually (which, frankly, has already been a significant success). Weíve canceled many of our events to avoid opportunities to spread the virus such as some volunteer work parties, and are making adjustments to others, including the Down the River Cleanup.

To our volunteers – we miss you! We look forward to safely gathering again in the future.

As we all adjust to these new, difficult realities, we want to assure our diverse community that CRBC will continue to work diligently to protect the Clackamas River and its tributaries and wetlands, to restore salmon habitat, and to create opportunities for everyone to give back to the watershed and realize the benefits of our joint efforts.

With best wishes for your health and safety,

Cheryl McGinnis
Executive Director
Clackamas River Basin Council

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