National Parks Centennial

Over one hundred years ago, the National Park Service was born (here). President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” on August 25, 1916. This created what Wallace Stegner called “America’s best idea” (here).

We have come to know our National Park System very well over our years of road trips and road schooling. And we deeply value it. The Grand Canyon is our home away from home. Yellowstone National Park just became our most recent friend. But over our 40,000 miles and 32 state lines, National Parks have given us far more than a place to camp. They’ve given us an education in history, ecology, geology, astronomy, and the American government. They’ve exposed us to the landscapes and landmarks that define us as a country. They’ve given us space for discovery, adventure, and meditation. They’ve been a touch point for reflecting on who we are as a nation. They are reserves that allow our land to rest and recover from the pressure we place on it.

There have always been threats to our federal designations of public lands. There is always somebody sneaking something through, taking from Americans for someone’s personal gain. These threats are especially great right now. Namely, the official GOP platform for this election is to make private wealth out of your public land (here). The Senate has already passed a bill approving the sale of National Forests to county governments (here). This is on top of threats already existing (here): mining and development for the Grand Canyon (here), invasive species and visitor impacts in Yellowstone (here), hog farm runoff for the Buffalo National River (here), etc.

Those of us who value our country should have a healthy fear of our government and advocate for our public lands. They belong to us. But not one of us will keep these remnants of our country if we don’t all defend them.

2 Responses to “National Parks Centennial

  • rain mako
    1 year ago

    Dearest Jamie, I so enjoy reading your posts, a fun way to stay in touch. I totally agree, we must be vigilant, pay attention and be educated about the “quiet”, out of the media spotlight, workings of our government. However, I do not choose to be afraid of my government or the GOP. They are only a collection of people, and each person is trying to meet some true need of their true self. I disagree with their strategies of getting their needs met and I suspect their strategies are not really working for them. This is the opening for finding common ground. If we work to listen to each others needs we can make agreements that can work for us all. Yeah, it seems pie in the sky, but seeing other people as “people to fear” turns them into enemies and then there is no path to finding common ground. Our government is a common tool, our country and our public lands are common ground literally. Sure, we need to put more effort into shaping how our commons are used, I’m an admitted slacker and need to improve. I don’t think fear is not a good motivator. It easily leads to paralysis and giving up in my experience. I believe love for our commons, and seeing others as just people, can give us the courage and motivation to sway the course of events.

    • I love your perspective on this, Rain. And I’m inclined to agree. Fear is not the most long-term binding motivation. But it’s the most short-term impulsive motivation. My own politics fall on both sides of the partisan line. At some times and someways I consider myself conservative. So I’m not throwing stones at anyone except to say that we need to be careful not to sign up for a ticket without thoughtful consideration of every point. Playing on the old adage with a distinction I embrace, I love my country but I fear my government. What I would say to explain myself, is that we need to fear the things of which we are unaware. Namely, systemic erosion of the American people holding in common our public lands. The mechanism we have for that is federal designation. Any lesser designation is a justification for that land becoming mined for an individual’s personal gain. I would say that our love for our country is a profound motivation for protecting this land we live in. And there are times–like when you see someone you love in mortal danger and must react–when fear is the motivation with biological imperative. I would offer that this is one of those times.

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