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Maine’s Outdoor Equity Fund Announces Inaugural Grantees

Maine’s Outdoor Equity Fund Announces Inaugural Grantees
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color -led organizations receive $300,000 to expand access to the outdoors


April 6, 2023

Maine’s first-ever Outdoor Equity Fund is awarding $300,000 to organizations that advance outdoor access, learning, and experiences for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. This new grantmaking fund was created by the Nature Based Education Consortium (NBEC) and is implemented as a partnership between NBEC and Maine Initiatives. The Outdoor Equity Fund’s inaugural cohort of grantees includes ten organizations whose work focuses on issues ranging from Indigenous land stewardship, food and storytelling, surf and water access for women, immigrant health and well-being, and so much more.

While Maine’s Outdoor Equity Fund is new, the reasons for its creation are well-documented. Maine is a state known for its outdoor landscapes: breathtaking coastlines and dense forests. But a large majority of people of color in the state live in nature deprived areas in Maine, according to a report by the Center for American Progress–while only about a quarter of white people in the state live in nature-deprived areas. This is a significant disparity. The benefits of being in nature are many, including improved physical and mental health outcomes. Likewise, the consequences of nature deprivation are real, and exacerbate existing inequalities formed by generations of systemic racism.

The Outdoor Equity Fund, which has a low-barrier application process, aims to increase opportunities for nature-based learning and improve safe, equitable access to outdoor spaces for Wabanaki people, Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) in Maine, unceded Wabanaki Territory. The fund seeks to address a variety of barriers that communities of color face when it comes to accessing the outdoors, and works to strengthen the existing leadership of BIPOC organizations while building relationships and sharing knowledge. 

Grounded in community voice and engagement, the Outdoor Equity Fund is rooted in the practices of participatory grantmaking: the simple idea that decisions about funding should be made by the communities served.  This community-led approach runs deep, and centers the importance of trust and relationships. By design, the Outdoor Equity Fund is informed, advised, and guided by a Community Advisory Committee of leaders within the nature-based learning ecosystem in Maine. A dedicated BIPOC Grantmaking Advisory Committee reviewed proposals and collaboratively selected the grantees.

”One wonderful thing about the Outdoor Equity Fund is that the process creates its own ecosystem. Each step becomes an opportunity to grow and deepen relationships,” said Anthony Jackson, Equity & Organizing Coordinator of the Nature Based Education Consortium. 

The Outdoor Equity Fund’s ten grantee organizations listed below will each receive a grant of $30,000 over three years in general operating support. Over the course of the next three years the cohort will share knowledge, build relationships, and connect with a well-established and well-resourced outdoor learning network, with support from the Nature Based Education Consortium and Maine Initiatives.

Bomazeen Land Trust
Bomazeen Land Trust enables the Abenaki/ Wabanaki people to renew caretaking and stewardship roles in lands and waters that have spiritual, cultural, or historical significance to the Abenaki/ Wabanaki people. 

ECO-BIPOC/Third Place
The Third Place organizes community and cross-sector networks to build social and professional connections for Black Mainers. 

Intercultural Community Center
The Intercultural Community Center (ICC) supports and improves the lives of immigrants and refugees by providing educational, health, social opportunities and resources. 

Journey ONEderland
Journey ONEderland works to liberate Afro-Indigenous people in Maine and beyond by strengthening relationships between people and the earth through healing retreats, art, science, and outdoor recreation. 

Juneteenth Downeast
Juneteenth Downeast exists to give people of the African diaspora a place to connect, and opportunities to replenish that which was taken away, whether through connection to the land, the water, to resources, or to each other. 

Maine Association of New Americans (MANA)
MANA is an immigrant-led organization that promotes social and personal empowerment of immigrants through: Raising awareness of individual and collective trauma and how they affect our lives; Expanding people’s resilience building strategies by exploring various resources; Providing trauma-aware, multilingual transportation services to address social determinants of health; Connecting people with their peers across cultures. 

More Women+ Surf
More  Women+ Surf is a women-led surf organization in Maine breaking down socio-economical, physical, and emotional barriers to create surf and water access for underserved individuals. 

Somali Bantu Community Association
Somali Bantu Community Association’s mission is to provide vital transitional services, advocacy, and food production that empowers members of the refugee community to uphold cultural identity and economic well-being to thrive in their new life here in Maine. 

Tender Table
Tender Table celebrates Black and Brown community in Maine by connecting and honoring identities, traditions, joy, resilience, and fight for collective liberation through storytelling and food. 

Wabanaki Youth in Science
Wabanaki Youth in Science’s mission is to inspire and support persistence in the sciences for Native youth by providing long-term education opportunities that integrate Indigenous ecological knowledge with western science. 

Read more about the Outdoor Equity Fund here, including the Request for Proposals. The Outdoor Equity Fund is accepting donations to support future cohorts of grantees.

For more information, please contact Anthony Jackson

Image credit: More Women+ Surf in the March 2023 issue of Downeast Magazine

Maine Initiatives is a community-based foundation supporting greater social, economic, and environmental justice in Maine through informed, intentional, and collective philanthropy. Our core programs are Grants for Change, the Immigrant Led Organizations Fund, the Outdoor Equity Fund, The Giving Project, and MaineShare

The Nature Based Education Consortium (NBEC) is a diverse, multi-sector network of organizations and individuals focused on building support for equitable access to outdoor spaces and learning opportunities for all Maine youth. NBEC believes that all Maine youth deserve the opportunity to learn in ways that connect them to their community and the natural world. 

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