BIPOC River Stewards

People with binoculars outdoors

Since 2021, FMR has held events created by and for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). Together, we've tended habitat restoration projects, birdwatched in the gorge and snowshoed by the river.

How our BIPOC stewardship program works

If you identify as BIPOC, sign up for our list so we can invite you to future outings and volunteer opportunities in the Twin Cities metro. (If you don't identify as BIPOC, we're grateful for your support and hope to see you at our public volunteer events, which are open to all.)

We don't list BIPOC events on our website calendar, so after you've signed up, make sure you've added volunteer@fmr.org to your email address book. There's no commitment required and no experience necessary. If you're available and interested in an upcoming event, just register, and we'll see you there!

If you have any further questions or ideas for the program, reach out to Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator Sophie Downey at volunteer@fmr.org.

Why do we need BIPOC events?

Historically, people who are BIPOC have not been welcomed or safe in outdoor settings.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, people of color make up about 20% of Minnesota's population, but only about 5% of state park visitors. Why might that be? In addition to inequitable access, outdoor activities are often exclusive, and outdoor spaces aren't always safe in the same ways for everyone, not because of wildlife or dangerous conditions, but because of human threats in isolated places.

Entering mostly white spaces alone as a BIPOC person can lead to experiences of racism, from microaggressions to violence. White people who don't experience that unease may not realize the privilege, but stories and research bear this out. A Met Council study cites "safety, lack of cultural competency, racist encounters in parks" as barriers for youth access to parks here in the Twin Cities.

FMR wants everyone to be able to connect with the river, this place, and each other. If we want to provide stewardship and community experiences that feel welcoming, affirming and useful for people who are BIPOC, we have to go beyond inviting people to our usual program spaces. We need to build relationships and trust in another way, by coming together as people who are BIPOC learning from each other.

Program participant Julia Bhagyam told us: "This experience was so comfortable and fun. I enjoyed meeting new people, learning something new about the history of our land, and participating in some winter activities. Everyone was so welcoming, I would definitely attend another event."

We're excited about this program because it's a pathway to a more inclusive and vibrant community of river lovers. By building trust and community around one aspect of identity, we'll weave more experiences, knowledge and skill into this growing movement, together.

Thanks to our partners

We're not doing this work alone. We're proud to partner with other local organizations around these events, including: Mississippi Park Connection, the National Park Service and Urban Bird Collective.

Resources for people who are BIPOC

We encourage people who are BIPOC in the Twin Cities to join the BIPOC Outdoors Twin Cities Facebook group. This group shares events, advice to getting together outdoors, outdoor equipment and more.

Resources for allies to learn more

There are so many ways to learn more about the privilege white people have in outdoor spaces and the environmental community, and what we can do about it. Outside Online breaks down the problem of access to the outdoors. Range Magazine introduces the idea of "affinity spaces" or identity groups, and how powerful they can be. Angela Davis held a conversation on MPR about disparities in Minnesota's outdoor recreation. Here's a roundup about racism in birding. FMR's equity pages offer more resources on equity in the conservation movement.

Join us

We love meeting new volunteers and being together outdoors! Whether through our BIPOC program, our geographic volunteer programs like our Vermillion Stewards, or through our general volunteer events — we hope you find an opportunity to join us.