“What a country chooses to save
is what a country chooses to say about itself.”
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Just last year we were celebrating the 100th birthday of America’s best idea. Without delving too deeply into politics, it needs to be said that our national parks are in need of support right now.
- National monuments are being reviewed and may be revoked— opening those areas to possible drilling, mining and development.
- The ban on plastic water bottles being sold was lifted, if not overtly encouraging littering and pollution then certainly making it a whole lot easier (fun fact: plastic bottles used to make up an estimated 20% of the Grand Canyon’s waste stream and 30% of the park’s recyclables).
- Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke proposed that campgrounds on national land should be privatized— after Trump proposed cutting the Department of the Interior budget by 13%—moves that will surely necessitate a raise in admission prices.
- And it appears that the National Park Service’s input is no longer desired on drafted legislation: their submitted objections to the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act” were basically crossed out and handed back to them. (This bill would prevent the NPS from regulating the hunting of bears and wolves in Alaska wildlife preserves, including hunters going into dens to kill baby bears and wolf cubs.)
I know there’s a lot going on that requires attention and support and protest, but I’d like to add visiting your local national park to the list. As I am wont to remind people at every possible opportunity, we need to know a thing in order to love and want to protect it. It’s a lot easier to let our national lands slip through our fingers when we haven’t visited it— when the memory of bathing in blue skies, wide open spaces, and green canopies isn’t freshly imprinted on our souls. It’s easy to forget how the everyday awe of nature is a prescription for mental, physical and emotional health when we haven’t recently experienced its balm for ourselves.
Side note: I know a lot of people actually had this sense of wonderment and awe this week as they experienced the solar eclipse, particularly in the path of totality. That’s a once or twice in a lifetime event. The parks are there for us all the time… let’s keep it that way.
Anyway. On August 25th, you can visit our National Parks free of admission to celebrate their 101st birthday. The other remaining fee free days this year are September 30th (National Public Lands Day) and November 11th & 12th (Veterans Day weekend). The fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees but obviously not things like camping, kayaking, tours, concession fees etc.
Remember, any fourth grader can get a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program, and on August 28th the price on an annual pass for senior citizens will be raised from $10 to $80. Active duty military and citizens with a permanent disability can also get free passes through the NPS website or in person at certain sites.
Extra incentive for parents:
“Data shows that adults who were introduced to the outdoors as children were more likely to participate in outdoor activities during adulthood than those who were not exposed to the outdoors as children. In fact, 37% of adults who were introduced to the outdoors during childhood grew up to enjoy outdoor activities as adults. Only 16% of adults who do not currently participate in any outdoor activities had outdoor experiences as children.” (source)