Workforce Diversity in Federal Natural Resource Organizations: U of Minn 2022 Study

Thanks to Forrest Fleischmann for sending this University of Minnesota 2022 paper on proportions of women and minorities in natural resource and other federal agencies.

Here’s the abstract:

Natural resource management in the United States has long suffered from a lack of workforce diversity, with women and minorities generally underrepresented in natural resource careers. Workforce diversity is particularly important for federal natural resource organizations given their importance as major environmental employers and policymakers as well as their legal obligation to ensure a representative federal workforce. This analysis examined workforce trends in gender (from 1998 to 2018) and race/ethnicity (from 2006 to 2018) for nine federal natural resource departments and agencies. Employee demographic data were examined intraorganizationally over time and inter-organizationally in comparison with the federal government overall and the civilian labor force. The results demonstrated that over the last two decades: (1) federal natural resource organizations experienced large losses of employees, in contrast to gains in the number of employees in the federal government overall and the civilian labor force; (2) the percentage of female and minority employees in federal natural resource organizations increased even as the number of employees decreased; (3) federal natural resource organizations had lower percentages of female and minority employees than the federal government overall and civilian labor force; and (4) gaps in female and minority employment between the federal natural resource organizations and the civilian labor force generally remained stable or grew larger over time. Overall, the results indicate that federal natural resource organizations have continued to experience remedial levels of workforce diversity compared to the federal government overall and the civilian labor force.


One of the difficulties I had in hiring was that I actually couldn’t tell if people fit into a diversity category or not, if they didn’t self-identify.   Checking out their social media seemed a little stalker-ish. Or trying to figure it out from the groups they were involved with… many non-diverse folks would be active in those groups.  I felt like we should have a budget to hire detectives. This suggestion did not go over well.  Anyway, reading the below, from the report,  reminded me of those experiences.


For the NPS (and by extension, the DOI), the percentage of employees in the young age range (under 30) with an unspecified race/ethnicity experienced a large increase beginning in 2016. From 2006 to 2018, the number of young employees with an unspecified race/ethnicity in the NPS increased from 1 employee to 463 employees (+462). This is in stark contrast with the number of minority and white young employees in the NPS which both decreased over the 13-year period (-17 and -505, respectively) (Table 3). Comparing the NPS’s young workforce from 2015 (just before the sharp increase in employees with an unspecified race/ethnicity) to 2018, the percentage of white NPS employees decreased from 85% to 70%, the percentage of minority NPS employees stayed the same at 15% (Figure 6), and the percentage of NPS employees with 65 an unspecified race/ethnicity increased from 0% to 15%. It therefore appears that, in the NPS’s young age range, employees with an unspecified race/ethnicity were primarily replacing white employees during this period, rather than minority employees. It is also particularly notable that the NPS’s young workforce had equal percentages of minority employees and employees with an unspecified race/ethnicity in 2018 (both 15%). The only other selected organizations in which employees with an unspecified race/ethnicity made up more than 1% of the young workforce over the 13-year period were the FWS (2% in 2017 and 2018), the NRCS (3% in 2009), and the EPA (2% or more from 2007 to 2013, with a maximum of 5% in 2010). None of these agencies had more than 70 employees with an unspecified race/ethnicity during those years, nor more than 1,500 total young employees.


Check it out.

5 thoughts on “Workforce Diversity in Federal Natural Resource Organizations: U of Minn 2022 Study”

  1. Interesting about the rise in unspecified. I know there is somewhat of a counter-movement against all the racial polarization in our society encouraging people to reject the artificial construct of race and to identify as “non-racial” or decline to answer on surveys. I’ve been trying to do that myself more often lately. I wonder if this means that the movement against identifying with a particular race category is starting to gain some traction.

  2. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, you cannot base a hiring decision, in whole or in part, on a person’s race or gender.

  3. Jon, that’s hilarious; you must be practicing for your stand up comic routine….🤣

    On another note, I sent a response on this topic but it seemed to have went “ka-put”! Intentional or lost on the ozone?

  4. I know, just messing with you; as I tried to say, but it somehow lost its way, the ever present pressure to hire diversity seemed to become the underlying driver in filling positions. I was engaged in very difficult negotiations with a DRF, trying to hire a fantastic candidate. I had just about had it with the condescending attitudes, apparently liking me to a piss ant at a picnic. Anyway, as soon as I mentioned the candidate was Acoma, the case was as made and I had “permission” to hire!

    In the old days, Forest Supervisors actually had the ability to act almost independently. That all changed way too long ago.

    I actually agree with Patrick, that most folks do not self identify, and really could care less. We should all identify as mission focused, and live the Golden Rule!


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