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The first Black woman to serve as a CPW commissioner is working to diversify the outdoors

Taishya Adams was appointed to the CPW Commission by Governor Jared Polis in 2019.

BOULDER, Colo. — The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission is made up of 11 commissioners who set regulations and policies for Colorado's 42 state parks, as well as help the state manage wildfire.  

For the first time in history, one of those governor-appointed positions is filled by a Black woman.

Taishya Adams is bringing her unique voice and vision to a historically predominately white space. 

“Not only is nature there to enjoy, but it also provides mental, social and emotional health support," Adams said. "It’s a positive influence!”

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 Adams may be nature’s biggest cheerleader. For her though, it’s not enough to simply enjoy the beauty of Colorado, she feels a responsibility to protect it.

 “We have a pandemic, we have so much unrest and nature is here as a healer to help support us through this and that’s why it’s so critical that we steward our natural resources," she said. 

That palpable passion caught the attention of Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), who made history when he appointed Adams to the CPW Commission in 2019. With 25 years of experience in education and research under her belt, Adams is the first Black woman to receive a seat at this table.

“Being the first of anything is always a challenge,” Adams said. “I’m not just coming as a Black woman. I am so many things, but my Black woman-ness anchors a lot and it [and] forms a lot of my work. The perspective that I have as a Black woman is just as needed as a white American who’s coming from the farming community.”

Adams' priorities may look a little different than her fellow commissioners. On the top of the list: effectively diversifying the great outdoors. The most recent national parks survey found only 6% of national park visitors are Black, while 77% are white.

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“I have been going above and beyond to engage and really pushing myself to think critically about how can I better engage Black people and black communities around these issues,” Adams said. “How do we position our black communities to be actively engaged, our black families to be actively engaged? Every day we impact our natural resources and so every day we need to be stewards of these resources.”

From community meetings to Zoom town halls and seminars, Adams' mission is to erase stigmas and increase access for Black communities who have been historically excluded. She also wants to bring focus on how people of all races can help our environment heal.

“This is the most challenging time for our planet it right now it’s hurting, we know it’s hurting, we can see that it’s hurting,” Adams said. “I know there’s gonna be wildfires. I know it’s going to exasperate drought conditions. And so it is requiring all hands on deck. This is a group assignment. Let’s go! let’s go!!”

Taishya also serves on the Colorado Natural Areas Council, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for the Colorado Office of Tourism and is the policy director for "Outdoor Afro". 

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