“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
As you are probably well aware by now, the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. One hundred years of service is an amazing milestone and one that the NPS deserves tremendous accolades for achieving. The service has preserved, protected and shared the best and most important of our natural areas and resources in this great country and made them available for ALL to share and experience. Congratulations, NPS.
Ever wonder what the US would look like, and how different our livelihood would be, if early leaders of our country had not set aside these crowned jewels for all to enjoy? Where would the millions of park visitors vacation and explore if the land were not accessible? How would city-dwellers have an opportunity to explore the outdoors and come in touch with nature?
How could they possibly ever come to know and understand the natural world and how it translates to their everyday lives? If this is not something you have ever thought about, you might want to pay attention, because there is a movement right now within Congress to sell off millions of acres of federally owned land – not necessarily parks, but other federal land that the public currently has accessible.
While I am not “anti-development,” it would appear to me to be unsustainable selling off large chunks of federal land to private interests who then can close access from the public for their own private benefit. Currently, 19 western states’ federal land … land that you own, are at risk of being taken over by state governments, often to be sold to private interests. Once these lands are sold, we will never get them back. With an ever-growing population, consideration should be given to increasing the accessibility to outdoor areas for people to get out and explore, not selling off the land.
A recent op-ed column reminded me of Olde England, where only wealthy landowners hunted. If you were a commoner, you had no access to land for hunting, or other recreational adventures. Our ancestors, upon settling in this new land and setting guiding principles in place for the future of our country, made sure that everyone had the ability to hunt and fish in America.
Nearly three-quarters of a century later, President Theodore Roosevelt (my all-time favorite US President), John Muir and other early leaders realized the importance of preserving and protecting land and making it accessible to every man, woman and child when they made plans to establish the NPS. I hope you do, too. There are several conservation and environmental organizations working today to encourage Congress to retain ownership of your federal lands.
I would encourage you to learn more about this issue and contact your members of Congress. Two organizations that I am familiar with that are working to protect our wild spaces are: the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (www.trcp.org/) and the Wilderness Society (www.wilderness.org).
If you feel strongly about maintaining and preserving wild places to explore, please take time to contact your congressman … if not for me, for your children and children’s children.
Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.