Featured Photo: Let the Light In (photo by Jeff Wallace)
In light of recent events, it's been easy to get caught up in the dozens of political sandstorms clouding the headlines each day. However, a main concern that has caught our attention since the new year began is the big question; “What will happen to our National Parks System?”
If you’re anything like me, a day in the forest or an afternoon wandering through the pillars of rock in the outdoors are invaluable. A recent bill proposed to the U.S. House of Representatives is calling for a plan to transfer the National Parks land over to the individual states where the parks reside. This would be a simple transfer, with neither the Federal Government or the state receiving any other compensation.
There are many of us that feel we live in a state that would continue to protect these lands with their tax revenue. However, there are also many of us that live in a state where we're not so sure whether or not what our state government would do with acres and acres of free land. It's easy to make promises, but remember that one can never be too sure what a state will do in time of recession, economic downturn, or other crises. The federal government has a specific budget set aside for the preservation of National Parks lands. If this land goes to the states, each state would be able to make a decision as to whether or not to continue funding the parks or allocate some of the land for industrially or agricultural uses. That is 50 different states deciding the future of these lands and therefore 50 chances to lose a great natural treasure.
This really is not and should not be a political issue. It is a human issue and it will affect us now and in future generations. When it comes to wildlife and the ecosystems in which they live, conserving these areas is vital to the health of our planet. We rely directly on natural ecosystems; we breathe oxygen from trees, we drink water from healthy lakes, we eat plants and animals that also rely on other parts of the ecosystem. If we significantly impact these natural environments, then anything - fungi, bacteria, insects, plants, animals, anything - that relies on those environments to survive will also be affected. This possibility makes the issue of transferring National Parks lands to states definitely worth talking about, and hopefully doing something about.
For now, the many efforts put forth to preserve the National Parks have helped. The bill that was proposed to enact the land transfer was withdrawn from discussion last month week. That halts the topic for now, but NPS was still banned from tweeting about scientific facts on Twitter, there are still anti-global-warming politicians being nominated environmental positions, the EPA is still in federal-support limbo.
If you want to help, here are some ways:
Donate your spare change.
It is tough to donate hard-earned money to National Parks that could be hundreds of miles away from you. But truly, even the smallest amount matters. Think of the pennies and nickels hiding on the floor of your car or the loose $1.34 that you pulled out of your last load of laundry. Toss them all in a jar and send that money to the National Park System at the end of each month and you’re helping preserve America’s greatest natural resources for years to come.
Donate your spare time.
If giving money isn’t in your budget for the time being, your time is equally important and may be even more valuable. Check out the opportunities to volunteer at the nearest National Park or make plans to visit one of the parks. You’ll take part in the bigger cause and explore, travel through and experience that National Park along the way!
Do what you can do for the benefit of the outdoors.
Sometimes trail maintenance or park-rangering just isn’t for you. That’s totally alright. NPS has handfuls of different opportunities to get involved with America’s precious wildlife. For instance, if photography is your thing, or any type of art for the matter, become an Artist-In-Residence at a park to get some inspiration. Love messing with science? There are climate scientists positions also up for grabs! It isn’t hard to use natural talents to help out our natural resources.
Be environmentally conscious in your day-to-day life.
Recycle. Dispose of batteries properly. Take all your trash with you and make sure it gets in the garbage. All of these simple gestures and many others make a huge difference when it comes to our planet in the long run. Being environmentally conscious also includes being aware of the facts. Read about the science of global warming. Be aware when local elected official are working to develop a natural space in your community.
Call your senator or representative.
This is the final step. We elected our officials and it is their job to represent our interests. So it should be without question that we make our voices heard when it comes to their bill proposals regarding the our public lands. Call your Senator or Representative and put in your two cents about how our public lands need protection - because it matters!