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2023 Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge Annual Report

by Michele Johnson

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The In Solidarity Project is centered around “bringing the outdoor industry together to build a more inclusive future.The Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge is a framework designed to help organizations operating within the outdoor industry to critically examine their own roles and influence in the intersection of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the outdoors.

This is our 2023 Annual Report, outlining the work CFI is doing, and still needs to do, to increase opportunities for various communities within the outdoors.

Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge Annual Report 

December, 2023 


   Canyonlands Field Institute (CFI) is a nonprofit organization based in Moab, Utah. Our mission is to provide quality outdoor education on the Colorado Plateau to inspire care of wild spaces and renew the human spirit.   

   Canyonlands Field Institute has operated on the lands and waters of southeast Utah for 38 years. Many indigenous peoples including the Ute, Navajo (Diné), Paiute, Hopi and other descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans and San Rafael Fremont have deep relationships to this land that stretch back millennia. All members of these groups are survivors of an attempted erasure of their ways of being by European settlers hoping to make this land their own. We acknowledge that as an organization founded and led by non-native people, experiencing the power of this landscape is a privilege that has been afforded to us by the violent history enacted against the tribes of the Colorado Plateau. We hold gratitude for the persistence of these tribes, their thriving cultures, and their continued care for the land. We are especially grateful for the knowledge and expertise contributed to our programs by indigenous staff, guides, and educators.   

   In December of 2020, CFI first signed In Solidarity’s Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge. As an organization, CFI holds diversity as a core value and believes that as with ecosystem health, humans thrive in diverse and vibrant communities. We honor and embrace all the expressions of human diversity. 

This annual report outlines the efforts made by CFI within 2023 to fulfill our Diversity Pledge as a leader within the Outdoor Education industry to create authentic inclusion within the outdoors. In this report you will find Areas of Focus defined by CFI to categorize our efforts related to DEI. You will find information on internal and external initiatives, key metrics, and other performance indicators. You will also find honest reporting of successes, challenges, and areas of needed support in the future.   

   Thank you for taking the time to read this report. You may direct questions or responses to Michele Johnson,   


   1) Internal Initiatives and Education  

   The aim of our Internal Education Initiatives is to build capacity and improve awareness of historic and contemporary BIPOC lived experiences so that we are better informed to represent and support our community.   

This area of focus includes curriculum and programming designed to create productive, and at times difficult, discussion within the CFI staff community. Additionally, this area of focus aims to provide all employees with the protections and safeguards they need to thrive both in the workplace and out in the world.  

   2) External Initiatives  

   The aim of our External Initiatives is to create opportunities for BIPOC individuals and groups to participate in the outdoors. At the core of this initiative is the recognition that commercialized outdoor spaces have not traditionally been inclusive for people of color, and these programmatic and external initiatives are focused on reducing some of the barriers to the outdoors faced by BIPOC communities. Additionally, we seek to ensure our employees are encouraged and supported to play an active role in initiatives that champion BIPOC communities.     

   3) Community Partnerships  

   CFI recognizes the importance of elevating voices of color as leaders within the outdoor industry. The aim of this area of focus is to increase our partnerships with organizations that are specifically providing support for communities that have been historically excluded from outdoor spaces. We aim to actively support BIPOC owned and led organizations and businesses within our community. 

   4) Marketing and Communication  

   The aim of this area of focus is to showcase and celebrate the diversity that exists within the outdoor community so that everyone feels welcome to inspire care of wild places and renew the human spirit. We will track BIPOC representation across our marketing efforts to ensure we are creating a welcoming and inclusive outdoor education environment for our Colorado Plateau community and outdoor community at large.  


In this section: 

  • WTRE Research 
  • Inclusive Hiring Practices 
  • Guide Training Program 
  • Retention and Promotion Efforts 

Working Towards Racial Equity (WTRE) Research and Education Project 

CFI was accepted into the first cohort of the National Science Foundation funded UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science, in partnership with Justice Outside Informing Change, Working Toward Racial Equity (WTRE) Workshop Series. The two-year series of intensive workshops and associated research study on building racial equity in environmental and outdoor science organizations began August 2021. Centering racial equity, the design will build capacity to foster equitable, inclusive, and culturally relevant work environments and organizations. The workshop series is organized within two strands within each organization: a distributed leadership team focused on organization change and a team of Professionals of Color (voluntary) focused on career advancement.  

WTRE’s stated goals are to:   

  1. “Develop and continuously improve the capacities of organizations to make systemic improvements for working toward equitable organizations.”  
  1. “Develop a model for organizations to work towards racial equity that can be broadly implemented in the field.”  


Amount of CFI staff and Board in WTRE  
WTRE Teams CFI participates in  Organization Systems Change Team (Executive Director, Education Director, Board Member)  Professionals of Color Team   (Business Manager, Education Program Manager) 
Paid staff hours in 2023 on WTRE  ~150 hours 

2023 was the final year for CFI’s participation in the WTRE program. Throughout the year, we had various workshops and sessions with the WTRE staff regarding our participation and the programs outcomes. The bulk of CFI’s work with the WTRE program took place during focus group sessions in April and debrief sessions in September. The focus group sessions included all staff, and highlighted different structures for systems change, and the debrief sessions were designed for members of CFI’s field staff to share feedback with WTRE about CFI’s actions. 

Here are some short phrases that staff used to describe CFI’s journey to become more equitable over the past 2 years: 

  • “increased pay” 
  • “Free all-gender housing provided for first year guides” 
  • “Engaging in necessary and sometimes challenging discussions around disability awareness and accessibility in the outdoors” 
  • “reworking curriculum to include more indigenous perspectives and history” 
  • “made me feel more seen” 
  • “financial struggle for CFI” 

CFI is incorporating 6 Conditions of Systems Change as a guiding tool. 

Inclusive Approach to 2023 field instructor hiring, pay, and professional development 

Guide Recruitment 

CFI is an outdoor education nonprofit organization who is always seeking to increase our ability to recruit a team with diverse life experiences. For the 2023 and 2024 seasons, we used a standardized, blind rubric, which formed the basis of our hiring process. While key demographic information was redacted before candidate profiles reached the hiring team, we still believe it was possible for biases to form based on resumes, and other application info. 

A goal for 2024 is to increase our ability to recruit diverse staff. 

Percentage of BIPOC on CFI 2023 field staff 45%  
Percentage of BIPOC on CFI leadership staff 37%  

CFI’s Program Managers are counted as both Field Staff and Leadership Staff 

First Year Naturalist Educator Pay

The First Year Naturalist Educator (FYNE) position is a professional development role for outdoor educators beginning their career. In ‘22 the four First Year Naturalist Educators received $960 per 2-week pay period. This position includes certifications, housing, and two weeks of paid time off.  

For 2023, CFI raised the salary for the same position to $1,040 per two-week pay period. While we have increased the salary, we recognize that this falls below the average living wage in Utah, calculated at $17.50 – $24 an hour.  

By prioritizing fundraising strategies, our goal is to continue to progress towards providing a living wage for all our staff in the near future. 


Housing: Within Moab, UT the shortage of affordable and accessible housing has been a primary barrier for the transplant and local workforce. CFI provides free housing for the First Year Naturalist Guides.  

Certifications: The Program Department recognized how certifications can be a financial barrier to many guiding positions. We currently cover the costs for FYNE’s to gain two essential certifications that will serve them throughout their outdoor career:   

  • Pro-I Swiftwater rescue course through Swiftwater Safety Institute, $350 per person.  
  • Wilderness First Responder Training through Desert Mountain Medicine, $825 per person.  

Guide Training 

Guide training consists of 5 paid weeks designed by the Education Director and the Program Managers to prepare guides to deliver CFI programs as effectively as possible. This is an in-depth training that covers everything from technical skills, culturally relevant educational methods, curriculum, and giving and receiving feedback. In addition to CFI staff, outside speakers contributed to this training as well. Key sources for developing staff training included: 

  • Culturally Responsive Teaching: The education team read and discussed Zaretta Hammond’s book “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain,” learning how to promote authentic engagement among culturally and linguistically diverse students.  
  • Introduction to Ability Awareness Training: This training conducted by the National Ability Center and designed to raise awareness around key questions to consider when teaching or supporting someone with a disability in the outdoors.   
  • Bystander Intervention Training Program – “Building Your Workplace Toolkit”: This free training facilitated by Seekhaven Family Crisis & Resource Center was also offered to all CFI personnel to aid in making our community safer for all. 

Retention and Promotion

50% of our field staff in 2023 agreed to work for CFI again in 2024. The focus on increasing benefits, pay, and professional development opportunities is starting to pay off with an increase in our retention rate. 

Additionally, in December of 2023, the CFI Board of Trustees selected Michele Johnson as Interim Executive Director. Michele will be the first person of color to serve as Executive Director at CFI.  


   In this section:  

  • Native Teen Program 
  • Title I School Initiative 
  • Northern Ute River Tribe Program 
  • Summer Camp Scholarships 
  • COPE Indigenous Program 

Native Teen Guide in Training Program  

The Native Teen Guide in Training program is an 8-day, overnight program that takes place on the San Juan River. The program is designed to provide technical training in the guiding field, while giving all Indigenous teens a chance to connect to each other and to the natural world.  

Program Highlights:  

  • While the program costs CFI over $8,000 per student to run, the cost to participate is $50 per teen. 
  • Since its creation in 2012, the NTGIT has provided professional development within the field of outdoor guiding to over 100 indigenous teens.  
  • We have worked over the year to build trust with native teens in the CFI program, and in 2023, 2 program graduates joined CFI program staff.  
Students  18 
% Indigenous   educators 100% 
Est. Subsidized Costs  $30,000 

Title I School Initiative 

In 2023, CFI started the Youth Desert Access Program. This program is designed to create pathways for Title I schools to attend CFI programs. It consists of a fundraising effort, recruitment plan and communication initiatives to welcome historically excluded students into the outdoors and reduce barriers of entry, financial and otherwise.  

In 2023, 33% of our schools were designated Title I 

Title I schools that joined CFI in 2023: 

  • Bennion Elementary, Salt Lake City: 22 youth 
  • Open Classroom, Salt Lake City 28 youth 
  • Moab Charter School, 13 youth 
  • Uintah River High School 20 youth 
  • East Middle School (now, Orchard Mesa) 26 youth 
  • Bear River Charter School 24 youth 

Because schools generally book CFI programs about a year in advance, CFI’s efforts in 2023 will impact the 2024 program season. At the time of this report, CFI is planning on bringing the above Title I schools back, as well as: 

  • Northwest Middle School 
  • Southwest Open School 

for a total of 8 Title I schools in 2024. 

Northern Ute Indian Tribe River Program  

2023 is the third in a three-year partnership with Uintah River High School to provide an immersive outdoor educational river program for Ute Indian students. The program is envisioned as a “rebirth of a healthy stewardship of the River by the Ute Indian Tribe, led by the youth.”  

Summer Camp scholarships  

CFI provides partial and full scholarships to summer camp participants who are enrolled in their school’s free and reduced lunch program. We worked with the Moab Valley Multicultural Center to identify and recruit those students.  

COPE Indigenous Natural Connections Program: 

In June CFI hosted a specialized multi-day program named “Natural Connections” designed for middle to high school aged students and classes. These programs offer immersive outdoor education and STEAM experiences within Professor Valley Field Camp and Arches National Park, fostering connections to self, others, and the natural environment. 


In this section:  

  • Mental Health Hikes 
  • IMPACT Program 
  • Black People Who Hike 
  • American Adventure Sports Club 
  • National Ability Center 
  • Seekhaven 

Mental Health Hikes 

In 2023, CFI grantraised an estimated $8,000 to provide 8 mental health programs, serving 70 people. These programs were designed to provide essential mental health resources to the community of Moab in the form of education and outdoor accessibility. 

University of Utah Eccles School of Business HBCU IMPACT internship 

CFI hosted members of the IMPACT internship for a day of whitewater rafting on the Moab Daily. 

Black People Who Hike 

CFI presented at the recent Black People Who Hike gathering in Moab. Sharing local history, personal stories, and geology lessons at their welcome dinner. 

American Adventure Sports Club (Formerly Diversify Whitewater) 

Through a collaboration with the AASC, CFI created 3 positions on our Whitewater Academy summer camp for guides in training in the AASC network to join and increase their skills as outdoor professionals. 

National Ability Center 

The NAC specializes in providing accessible whitewater rafting programs to populations with various disabilities and neurodiversities. They provided a training to our field staff with specific ways to welcome, interact with, and communicate to people with a broad range of abilities. 

Seekhaven Community Crisis Resource Center 

Seekhaven provides domestic abuse, shelter, and mental health resources to the Moab Community. They provided a training to our field staff about ways to protect those under your care when witnessing or being a bystander for different types of assault. 


In this section 

  • Key Questions 
  • Outreach Materials 
  • Social Media 

Key Questions 

2023 was a year of strategic building for CFI’s Marketing and Communications Department. CFI has decided to create a branding guide in 2024, and plan on using the following as guiding questions:  

  1. Which demographics are our primary audiences? Who isn’t engaging in our content and services?  
  1. Are there barriers of accessibility to our marketing and outreach services? 
  1. Is our marketing content relevant and engaging? 
  1. Does our marketing message address a need and identify the value of our services to diverse audiences? 
  1. Does our desired target audience see themselves in our messaging and content? 
  1. Is our language inclusive and consistent? 
  1. Are we going to the communities we desire to connect with through our outreach and marketing, or are we expecting them to come to us?  

Marketing Materials and Outreach  

CFI continued to create BIPOC and Title One specific outreach resources and contact lists, examined barriers faced by those populations, and established relationships with community leaders who have influencing voices.  

Social Media  

In our 2022 report, our stated goal was to increase the percentage of posts with people that feature BIPOC to 50%.  

 In 2023:  

Instagram posts featuring people  35 
Instagram posts with people featuring BIPOC (estimated)  16 
% posts with people that feature BIPOC  45% 


We met some of our goals and failed to meet others. We would like to acknowledge the tireless work performed by our employees to further their understanding through reading, conversation, and research. We also appreciate our employees’ willingness to engage in challenging conversations and would especially like to acknowledge the additional burden borne, and patience shown by our employees of color while CFI navigates spaces of systems change.  

In 2024, CFI hopes to have a more complete understanding of the populations we serve. We hope to analyze the metrics gathered in 2023, to assess the efficacy of the strategies outlined in this and previous reports. We also hope to re-ignite the Crucial Conversations started in 2022, weaving in topics related to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access into everyday thinking. 

Michele Johnson, Interim Executive Director

Learn more about the In Solidarity Project