Press Release Jun 10, 2011

National Parks Group Hosts College Students from Great Lakes' States at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Restore Wetlands

Students gather for workshop on restoring wetlands

PORTER, Ind. – The nation’s leading voice for our national parks, the non-partisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), in partnership with the National Park Service, today will lead more than 20 college students from the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin in a hands-on workshop to restore wetlands at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Students will hear from a range of professionals working in the areas of conservation policy and advocacy, which are critical aspects of protecting and enhancing natural resources at America’s Great Lakes’ national parks. Students will also work alongside National Park Service staff to plant native species at the national lakeshore’s Cowles Bog. This activity is part of the park’s larger effort to improve Lake Michigan’s water quality by restoring degraded wetlands.

“As young people prepare for a career in environmental science or conservation, it is important for them to understand the critical role public lands – especially national parks - play in preserving biodiversity and the ecological health of a region,” said Naureen Rana, NPCA Midwest program manager. “Today’s training and fieldwork will give students insight into the role that federal, state, and local policy and advocacy play in the protection of our national parks.”

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offers a number of engaging opportunities for young Americans to directly connect to nature, such as the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program, First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Outside” program, and the dynamic environmental education classes offered by the park partners like the Dunes Learning Center, where visitors can explore and discover this dynamic resource. These activities help create a new generation of national park stewards by getting young people excited about these special places, motivating them to help protect and preserve these places for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

“We are pleased to work with NPCA in providing this opportunity for students, said Costa Dillon, Superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. “National parks belong to everyone, and helping to restore park lands is one way people can assure that these parks will be here for their children.”

“The long-term viability and vibrancy of our national parks depends on a broader, more diverse, youthful, and engaged constituency that values the national park idea,” said Rana. “Many urban communities have national park sites in their backyards, yet many of their residents may not even know they’re there. With Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore just 35 miles and a short train ride from Chicago, we need to highlight the nearby opportunities national parks provide for people to experience our country’s natural and cultural heritage firsthand.”

The Obama Administration’s launch of the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative last year reinvigorated the conversation about better connecting a broader constituency to our national parks and waterways – with a specific focus on engaging young Americans. The AGO report, released in February, recommends strengthening protection of our national parks, lands and waters, by working together with local communities to provide more recreation opportunities in urban areas, improving information to help the public access our public lands, and incorporating scientific information in decision-making to address park issues such as climate change, restoration and wildlife protection.

National parks are outdoor classrooms where we can learn about and appreciate wildlife and waterways, places to see our history come alive, family vacation destinations, and are playgrounds that offer unparalleled outdoor recreational opportunities within reach of many of our country’s urban and rural areas. Last week’s designation of the first Great Lakes National Recreation Water Trail along Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore raises the profile of paddling along Lake Michigan’s southern shoreline, inspiring more park visitors to enjoy the Dunes from the water.

“As we approach the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, we must work together to protect and preserve these special places for the next generation of park goers,” said Rana.

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About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.