Fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, mountain biking, mountain climbing, snowmobiling, rafting, kayaking, bird and wildlife-watching, taking scenic drives, vacations and just taking in the peace and beauty of these remarkable places…this is an incomplete list of the many ways that people benefit from our public lands.
When short-sighted politicians say that they want to sell off our public lands, as they are today, some Americans fail to grasp what this would actually mean. It might help to provide place names to help people understand what is at stake:
Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Everglades, Great Smoky Mountains, Mt. Rushmore, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Whitney, Denali, Little Big Horn, Gettysburg, Ding Darling, Mount Vernon, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Joshua Tree, every National Forest, National Monument and all of the Bureau of Land Management lands. These are only a very few of the many public lands we have thanks to visionary people like Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot who helped establish them.
Who goes to these public lands? Tens of millions do. In 2013 our National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, monuments and other public lands had 407 million visits, contributing $41 billion to the regional economies that support 355,000 jobs according to a Department of Interior report.
Public lands are the great outdoors in America. As a natural history tour guide, I often take foreign tourists to our public lands. They are astounded by the scale, beauty and wildness of these places.They visit here specifically because we still have these amazing places. Few countries have lands that compare to these; they are national treasures.
Public lands enrich our daily lives even if we do not visit them on a daily basis. As Wallace Stegner so eloquently said: “We simply need to know that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope. “
It is up to us to pass this land legacy on to our children and grandchildren. What will our legacy be?
Consider supporting these two organizations that advocate for our public lands:
- Public Lands Alliance: www.publiclandsalliance.org
- National Parks Foundation: nationalparksfoundation.org