Every city, county and school district in the United States has appointed boards and commissions that advise elected officials on policy issues. Some of the boards and commissions that frequently impact environmental policy deal with issues like land use (such as permitting and zoning boards), open space, transportation, pedestrian and bike infrastructure, and soil, air and water quality.
Local boards and commissions are frequently not representative of the full diversity of the communities they represent, including with respect to age, race and gender. This perpetuates long-standing environmental racism and injustice that has led to heat islands, air pollution and contaminated soil and water in communities of color, and in general worse health outcomes for low income communities.
This is a frequent result when the people making these decisions are not impacted by the outcomes of their decisions. As activists often say, “If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu,” meaning that you have to be part of making the decisions, or you could be hurt by those decisions. Because people with less social power and wealth are underrepresented on these boards and commissions, they have less influence over the decisions made that affect them and their communities.
LCV Education Fund’s Boards and Commissions Fellowship Program is intended to address this issue by recruiting diverse leaders and supporting them in applying to serve on non-elected local boards and commissions, especially in states that the environmental movement has neglected for far too long. By doing this, our goal is to ensure that the people influencing environmental policy are reflective of their communities, and that we are increasing the share of environmental leaders serving on boards and commissions. We are also building a pool of highly qualified leaders who may someday want to serve in higher leadership roles in their communities.
Through the program, fellows learn skills for effective service on a board or commission and receive support through the process of appointment and coaching during their first year of service.
You can learn more about our Boards and Commissions Fellowship programs (and refer leaders who might be interested!) with our state affiliates using these links:
Read the second in our blog post series on the Boards and Commissions program, profiling alumna Shari Baber on her experience in the program and serving on the Boise Parks and Recreation Commission.
The inaugural Colorado Boards & Commissions Fellowship Program kicked off in the summer of 2023 with a mixer for participants. Photo credit: Conservation Colorado.