Find Your Voice to help protect and enjoy our national parks in time for their centennial and beyond.
Soon the National Park System will celebrate its 100th birthday. Our national parks are among the most beloved places in America. Can you imagine what our country would be like if visionaries had not set aside places like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Gettysburg, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and the Statue of Liberty for people to learn about, explore, and enjoy? We would live in a world with less beauty, less history, less cultural understanding, and less joy.
Over the last 99 years, the national parks have become known as America’s “best idea” for good reason. Even so, our national parks face many challenges, from encroaching development to underfunding to climate change. To ensure their continued protection, we need to educate and empower people to advocate on their behalf.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” –Theodore Roosevelt
On Saturday, April 18th—the start of National Park Week—NPCA will kick off its Find Your Voice initiative to inspire people to speak up for our national parks. Together, we can speak with a unified voice and take action to protect them.
What can you do, with what you have, where you are? Here are five ideas for finding your voice for our national parks.
1. Bring five friends to a park.
Why it matters: We can’t expect others to share our passion for national parks until we show them how much there is to love. Plus, it’s fun!
Case in point: Ken Burns’ father took him to a national park when he was a boy, and he went on to create a moving educational series on the parks, motivating countless others to explore and care for them. You can help inspire a new wave of park advocates.
What you can do: Visit the Park Service’s park finder map and travel resources for inspiration planning your next adventure with friends and family. Then go enjoy!
2. Sign up for a community service project.
Why it matters: The Park Service is under significant financial strain, despite widespread support for its mission. The national parks suffer from a $11.5 billion maintenance backlog. That means simple tasks like repairing a trail, removing invasive plants, or fixing up a visitor center can fall by the wayside as park staff must stretch their limited dollars and time.
Case in point: Day after day, volunteers help with countless important tasks. For example, volunteer crews have modified miles of fencing near Yellowstone and Grand Teton so that pronghorn can migrate safely across the landscape without getting tangled in barbed wire, dramatically helping wildlife survival rates. Helpers in Arizona have removed tons of invasive plants from national park land that threaten the region’s native saguaro cacti. People with free afternoons have made enormous contributions to our parks, from improving trails to teaching kids to be good environmental stewards.
3. Write to your members of Congress about national park issues.
Why it matters: Registered voters hold a great deal of influence with their elected officials. It is important to hold members of Congress accountable on national park issues. Every communication from a constituent reinforces the significance of clean air, clean water, healthy wildlife, adequate funding, and other important issues.
Case in point: Late last year, Congress passed a historic parks package creating seven new national parks and expanding nine others. These places would not be preserved today if not for years of advocacy and thousands of messages from supporters defending important sites around the country.
4. Get involved in the planning process at your favorite national park.
Why it matters: From the protection of endangered species to increased parking, everything that the National Park Service does in a national park is the result of thoughtful planning. General management plans must balance conservation, recreation, safety, and other concerns unique to each park. Public input is a critical part of the process.
Case in point: Advocates have sent messages to park officials opposing extreme bear- and wolf-hunting practices in Alaska, supported measures to reintroduce threatened Pacific fishers to the Northwest, weighed in on how to use Yosemite’s Merced River responsibly, and shared opinions on many other issues that help make tangible improvements in the parks.
What you can do: Learn some of the planning process basics on the Park Service website, sign up for NPCA’s action alerts to learn more about upcoming park issues, and search for parks you care about on the Park Service website to find out about important issues near you.
5. Support NPCA’s work protecting our national parks
Why it matters: Your tax-deductible gift helps ensure NPCA has dependable resources to respond at a moment’s notice whenever our national parks are threatened. Your support provides strength in our on-the-ground work, clout on Capitol Hill, and resources to develop innovative programs that improve our national parks.
Case in point: When Congress closed the national parks for 16 days as part of the 2013 federal government shutdown, NPCA had to respond quickly with accurate and evolving information for the public, support efforts around the country to protect park resources under threat, and redouble efforts to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to reopen the gates and improve funding for park budgets. Staff could not have worked around the clock creating additional resources for the public without the steadfast support of members and donors.
What you can do: Donate now or visit NPCA’s website for more ways you can give. Your tax-deductible gift of $15 or more also brings you a year’s subscription to our award-winning National Parks magazine.
About the author
Clark Bunting Former President and Chief Executive Officer
Former President and CEO W. Clark Bunting joined the National Parks Conservation Association in November 2013, following a distinguished career as a businessman and innovator within the media industry.