Environmental groups oppose ‘divisive concepts’ bill


    A river and rocks
    The groups wrote that HB 544 is at odds with their collective mission to make the outdoors "a safe and welcoming place for all people.” (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

    Twelve environmental groups have written a letter to Gov. Chris Sununu opposing a controversial proposal to prohibit “divisive concepts” from being taught in New Hampshire schools. House Bill 544 – which has been included in the state budget – would also restrict state contracts, grants, and training programs.

    Leaders from environmental organizations say the proposal would also prevent businesses from receiving state funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

    “This infringes on our work and missions,” reads the letter. This work includes “making the outdoors a safe and welcoming place for all people.”

    The letter was signed by New Hampshire Audubon, Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club, New Hampshire Lakes, Conservation Law Foundation, New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Union of Concerned Scientists, New Hampshire Rivers Council, Connecticut River Conservancy, League of Conservation Voters, and The Nature Conservancy.

    “We need to engage in active listening, deep and sometimes uncomfortable conversation, and authentic action to learn about and reverse the effects that both recent history, and centuries of systemic racism, have had on equitable and inclusive access to the outdoors,” the letter said.

    The organizations say that HB 544 would hurt their efforts to become more inclusive and benefit more people in the state. 

    New Hampshire Audubon raised concerns last fall when staff members found stickers with white supremacist messages on trails they manage near Concord. Earlier this year, NHPR reported on incidents or racism and discrimination in state parks and at other outdoor recreation areas.