Jan 172011
Authors: Allison Sylte

In 1980, Gillian Bowser traveled 78 hours on a Greyhound bus from New York City to an internship at Yellowstone National Park. She could count the number of minorities who she worked with on one hand.

“When I was walking on the trails, I would see another black person, and I would have to say ‘Hi’,” Bowser said. “It was kind of like ‘what are you doing out here?”

She had come to Yellowstone as part of an inner-city outreach program, spending one summer working at a hotel, and the next surveying the 388 backcountry campsites in the park.

In Montana, her presence was considered out of the ordinary.

“Some days, I was more afraid of seeing a white person than a grizzly bear,” Bowser said. “But despite moments of racism, the absolute beauty that others displayed made all of it go away, and it made everything worthwhile.”

Bowser described an incident when she was coaching a local volleyball team and a man came up and introduced her to a young, interracial child.

“He said that he wanted this child to meet someone who was like him, and realize that he’s not alone in this world,” Bowser said. “It’s moments like that which are really restorative, and really give me faith.”

Since then, Bowser, the assistant dean at the Warner College of Natural Resources, has made it part of her life’s work to increase minority involvement in outdoor oriented career fields.

“It matters because land and national parks are all of our concerns,” Bowser said. “If there’s a segment of the population that isn’t exposed to the outdoors, then that’s a huge problem. National Parks can go away.”

In the 30 years since her internship in Yellowstone, Bowser says that minorities still are underrepresented in natural resource professions. She has been involved in a CSU outreach and networking program where minorities have the opportunity to spend summers working as “citizen scientists” by taking and entering data on natural landscapes.

But according to Bowser, the work to make natural resources a racially inclusive profession is far from over.

“Only 7 percent of natural resources employees are minorities,” Bowser said. “It’s a problem that needs to be addressed, and there is no easy solution.”

Assistant News Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at news@collegian.com.****


6-8 p.m. Thursday: A showing of “The Hidden Story of Hurricane Katrina: A Community Stands Up for Change” in the Grey Rock Room of the Lory Student Center.

2-3:30 p.m. Friday: “The End of Racism” workshop with Preacher Moss in room 230 of the LSC

9 p.m. Friday: “The End of Racism” Comedy Tour by Preacher Moss in the Main Ballroom of the LSC

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