On the 25th of Aug. in 2016, park rangers, nature photographers, and families alike wished the National Park Service a happy 100th birthday. The loved and celebrated NPS expanse includes Yosemite, Joshua Tree, the Badlands and 55 other parks, hosting 275 million visitors every year. The centennial should be a time of reflection, to recognize the NPS as the beacon of American unification that it is.
While the nation’s tourism industry is without a doubt boosted due to the National Parks, America needs to look past the shallow and monetary commercial front and start acknowledging the roots and reasons for the parks’ existence. The parks stitch together communities in the patchwork quilt of this country, commemorating local heritage and history. Not to mention, the NPS helps to conserve the natural wonders and environment we are so fortunate to have.
This conservation cause relating to our parks is all stemmed from the main man of the mountains: John Muir.
A Jack of All Trades, Muir was a naturalist, an author, and most importantly, an advocate for the preservation of the wilderness. Before Congress in 1890, Muir fought to emplace the National Parks Bill, which established Yosemite National Park. Today, the NPS with their 20,000 workers and volunteers campaign for the conservation of the nation’s precious parks, ranging from the Northeastern Acadia in Maine, to the Southern Big Bend in Texas, to the Coastal Northern Cascades.
Looking back and honoring the efforts of Muir and other past conservationists brings about the question regarding the progress of modern day conservation in our country. The most salient event as of late would be President Obama’s extension of the Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced Pa-pa-hah-now-mo-koo-ah-keh-ah) monument. The area spans 580,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean and houses over 7,000 species – some endangered. To put the colossal size of the marine reserve into perspective, it is three times bigger than California. Obama’s final conservation push in his ending presidency should be an inspiration for leaders to come, as it underscores the importance of protecting our planet.
Other leaders and organizations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), have followed suit and set goals for the near future to slow down the deterioration of oceanic ecosystems. One of the IUCN’s goal is to have 30% of oceans to be off-limits to commercial fishing by the end of this year.
Crucial efforts like these couldn’t come any sooner as we currently face coral bleaching, extinction of species, and overall human destruction to the environment. Society needs to recognize the drastic consequences that will follow if action is not taken. Arctic glaciers are melting at an astounding rate, and water run offs will possibly overflow and cover small towns in Bangladesh and larger coastal cities such as New York, Sydney, and London. Overall global biodiversity is decreasing, leading to species becoming endangered and even worse, extinct. These issues are just droplets in the flood of tribulations that have occurred due to deforestation, climate change, and human destruction to the environment.
Efforts such as the ones made by the National Parks Service and other conservation programs are taking the step in the right direction, but it is necessary to turn the steps into leaps and bounds to make a more salient difference.