Assistant Secretary Estenoz Highlights Interior Department’s Commitment to Honoring Black History, Investing in Equitable Outdoor Access during Tennessee Visit

Last edited 02/14/2024

Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2024

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz concluded a visit to Tennessee today, where she joined local leaders to celebrate Black History Month and highlight the Department of the Interior’s ongoing work to invest in equitable access to the outdoors for all. 

In Memphis, Assistant Secretary Estenoz met with local officials, faith leaders and community members to highlight the Department’s commitment to honoring the legacy and achievements of the Black community. During the visit, she announced that the National Park Service (NPS) will soon launch a Special Resource Study to evaluate sites associated with eight lynchings that occurred within a 100-mile radius of Memphis, Tennessee, between 1869 and 1940. Special Resource Studies are directed by Congress and require the Department, through the NPS, to evaluate the study location against congressionally established criteria for possible future commemoration or preservation. A Special Resource Study does not suggest or guarantee a location will ultimately be added to the National Park System but provides Congress with information in considering possible protection through park designation. The NPS will formally launch the process in the coming months with opportunities for the public to engage and provide feedback. 

Assistant Secretary Estenoz visited Fisk University in Nashville to highlight the Department’s commitment to preserving Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Under Secretary Deb Haaland and NPS Director Chuck Sams’ leadership, the Department has invested $31 million to identify and restore historic structures on the campuses of HBCUs. These grants work to preserve National Register listed structures on historic HBCU campuses, as well as funding architectural services, historic structure reports, campus preservation plans, and National Register nominations. 

Assistant Secretary Estenoz met with city leaders and community members in both Memphis and Nashville as part of the new nationwide tour to hear directly from local stakeholders on the need to connect communities with access to the outdoors and encourage state participation in the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program. The ORLP program, established in 2014, is a nationally competitive, dollar-for-dollar matching grant program that aids disadvantaged, urban communities that lack access to close-by outdoor recreation. Funds can be used for the acquisition and development of, or substantial renovation of, public parks and other outdoor recreation spaces in urban areas. 

Through the ORLP program, the Department is advancing the Biden-Harris administration's America the Beautiful initiative, a locally led, voluntary conservation and restoration effort that aims to address the nature and climate crises, improve equitable access to the outdoors, and strengthen the economy. Providing safe outdoor spaces for communities that are park-deprived is one of six areas of focus of the initiative. In November, the Department announced the distribution of nearly $22 million in funding through the ORLP program for the redevelopment or creation of new local parks in five cities, as well as a funding opportunity of more than $224 million in grant funding for 2024. 


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