The Public Lands Curriculum

A woman stands below text that reads "Know the past. Change the future. The Public Lands Curriculum."

Eric Bennett

New update adds little-known stories, climate module and so much more

The Public Lands Curriculum is an educational resource that aims to tell a more authentic and complete story of public lands.

The mainstream conservation narrative celebrates predominantly white males for protecting "pristine, untouched" wilderness and establishing treasured national parks — but that isn't the whole story. The current conservation narrative leaves out atrocities against Native Americans, the first inhabitants and stewards of many places we now enjoy as public lands, and the acknowledgment of racial segregation and discrimination that occurred for decades on public lands.

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For example, the 1964 Wilderness Act describes wilderness as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…" erasing and dehumanizing Native Americans who had lived on and stewarded these lands since time immemorial.

Our current conservation narrative erases the stories of the Jones Family, a Black family who sold land to create Biscayne National Park in Florida; Tie Sing, a legendary Chinese chef who supported the Mather Mountain Party, which was instrumental in the creation of the National Park Service; a predominantly Black community called Seneca Village was displaced in order to make way for today's Central Park; and many more stories left unspoken, unheard.

When sharing public lands' history, we must be intersectional, holistic, complete, and accurate—only by knowing our past can we change our future.

Understanding the harms that helped bolster the creation and management of today’s public lands can help prevent the perpetuation of similar unjust practices, understand the inequities that still exist today and steer the conversation about management and policy towards more equitable solutions moving forward.

This curriculum also connects the dots for readers as to why people of color and economically disadvantaged communities often experience the worst effects of today's climate crisis and how public lands can be a solution to these threats.

The Public Lands Curriculum is broken into 6 modules by topic. Each module contains discussion topics and lesson plans to help young adults understand and retain the material.

The 6 modules are:

  • What do we mean by “public lands”?
  • How did public lands come to be?
  • Connections to land and water 
  • Climate change, biodiversity and public lands  
  • Current issues in public lands management
  • What can you do for public lands?

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The Public Lands Curriculum

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The curriculum is a living document and we welcome ideas on how the information could better support your work. Please reach out to us with any questions or feedback by emailing