Almost exactly three years ago, I flew to Montana late in the day. By the time my plane reached the tiny airport in Bozeman, it was too dark to see the stately, snow-capped mountains that I knew surrounded me. I felt the ten-degree chill as I wandered over to pick up my rental car, then I drove for three hours to my final destination: Yellowstone. Well past midnight, in the frigid January cold, and enveloped by pitch darkness, arriving at the entrance to America’s first national park is still nothing short of inspirational.
I had traveled to Yellowstone to make a presentation to the National Parks Second Century Commission–a group of leading Americans that NPCA had convened to craft a vision for NPS as it approached its 2016 Centennial. Joining me for that presentation was the soon-to-be Director of NPS Jon Jarvis.
Today, we are three years closer to that centennial, and Jon and I are meeting again to craft the “Action Plan” that will implement the vision crafted by the Second Century Commission. This time we’re in Washington, D.C., joining the largest and most diverse gathering of park leaders ever organized at America’s Summit on National Parks. NPCA is partnering with the National Park Foundation and the National Park Hospitality Association to convene this gathering of the leaders of the parks community.
The big difference today is that we are moving from vision to action.
There’s a lot at stake. Last year, the National Park Service released “A Call to Action,” a five-year plan that will serve as a starting point for the summit. Fulfilling this call to action and creating a forward-thinking movement for parks could mean:
- Reaching 25 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren every year through field trips, trainings, classroom materials, online resources, and educational partnerships;
- Promoting large-scale landscape conservation through public-private partnerships in five regions of the country, making strategic land acquisitions that support healthy ecosystems and cultural preservation;
- Developing a $1 billion endowment to ensure the long-term health of the National Park Service; and
- Expanding federally protected park lands to include new ecological regions and cultural areas.
If you think that sounds ambitious, I agree. An opportunity like this only comes around once every hundred years, and with so many parks struggling with underfunding, development, pollution, and other serious threats, the need is urgent. Fortunately, when this many diverse leaders take action together, we create a coalition so strong, we have real political power to make our vision for parks a reality.
That’s why, as I welcome you to our new blog, I hope you will join our efforts, share your vision for the next century for national parks, and along with us make that vision a reality. What motivates you to protect these places we love, and what issues concern you most for their future?
About the author
Tom KiernanFormer president of NPCA