There are some things that money cannot buy, just as there are some things that should be exempt from the effects of industry and big business, and the ravages they leave in their wake. On Thursday, 25 August 2016, the National Parks Service (NPS) celebrated its Centennial … 100 years since the National Park Service was created, with millionaire industrialist Stephen Mather as its first director. In honour of the occasion, President Obama talked about the NPS in his weekly address:
Hi everybody. Earlier this summer, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I headed west—to the national parks at Carlsbad Caverns and Yosemite. And I’ve got to say, it was a breath of fresh air. We explored hundreds of feet underground, standing beneath dripping stalactites in New Mexico. We hiked up a misty trail next to a waterfall in California. And I even took a few pictures of my own – not bad, right?
But the truth is, no camera – especially one with me behind it – can fully capture the beauty and majesty of America’s national parks. From Glacier and Denali to Gettysburg and Seneca Falls, our more than 400 parks and other sites capture our history and our sense of wonder. As FDR once said: “There is nothing so American as our national parks… the fundamental idea behind the parks… is that the country belongs to the people.”
This month, we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. And I want to encourage all of you to “Find Your Park” so that you and your family can experience these sacred places, too. If you’re a military family, you can even get in free through Michelle and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative. And if you’ve got a fourth grader in your family, you can get a free pass, too, by going to EveryKidInAPark.org.
I hope you do. Because all across the country, the National Park Service is preparing for a big year. We’re revitalizing a grove of giant Sequoias in Yosemite; repairing the Lincoln Memorial; and enhancing the iconic entrance to our first national park at Yellowstone.
As President, I’m proud to have built upon America’s tradition of conservation. We’ve protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any administration in history. We’ve recovered endangered wildlife species and restored vulnerable ecosystems. We’ve designated new monuments to Cesar Chavez in California, the Pullman porters in Chicago, and the folks who stood up for equality at Stonewall in New York – to better reflect the full history of our nation. And we’ve got more work to do to preserve our lands, culture, and history. So we’re not done yet.
As we look ahead, the threat of climate change means that protecting our public lands and waters is more important than ever. Rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers in Glacier National Park. No more Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. Rising seas could destroy vital ecosystems in the Everglades, even threaten Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
So in the coming years and decades, we have to have the foresight, and the faith in our future, to do what it takes to protect our parks and protect our planet for generations to come. Because these parks belong to all of us. And they’re worth celebrating – not just this year, but every year. Thanks everybody. Have a great weekend. And see you in the parks!
But President Obama went a step farther when he designated more than 87,500 acres of land in Maine near the famous Mt. Katahdin as Katahdin Woods and Waters, to be a national monument managed by the National Parks Service. The land was donated by Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby and becomes the largest tract of federal parkland in Maine. Ms. Quimby began buying land in the 1990s with earnings from Burt’s Bees. She initially hoped for a national park designation, but as that requires an act of Congress (unlikely in the current environment), and she wanted to see it become a reality this year during the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, she is well-pleased with the national monument designation. Hats off to Ms. Quimby … she has shown us that big business and conservation efforts need not be mutually exclusive.
The designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters is particularly meaningful and welcome news to the hiking community, as I am reminded by my hiker friend, Beekeeper. Mt. Katahdin is the ultimate goal for the thousands of hikers who thru-hike the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail each year, starting at Springer Mtn. in Georgia. It is not only hikers, but many residents of Maine believe that “this will help diversify Maine’s economy, bring tourism to the region, and preserve ecologically significant lands and waters donated to the U.S. Government by a private owner.” (Hank Lacy, Katahdin Woods and Waters Facebook page)
President Obama has made the highest level of commitment to land preservation and conservation of any president in U.S. history. In February he designated three areas, the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains, national monuments. So, what exactly does it mean to designate land as a ‘national monument’? “National monuments are created when Congress or a U.S. president, with support from local communities, want to protect a naturally, culturally or historically significant land or place. National monuments are open to the public for many types of recreation, including camping, hiking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.” – (The Wilderness Society) These lands cannot be used for timber, new mining, or other business ventures that destroy land and waterways. Which, of course, has led to some opposition.
Maine Governor LePage, of whom I have written before, Another Unsavory Politician … LePage, had this to say: “It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it.”
Which leads to the question, this being a pivotal election year, where do the two presidential candidates stand on environmental/conservation issues? We have heard much about where they stand on issues of the economy, immigration, etc., but what would they do to preserve our planet? That, my friends, will be the topic of Part II of this post, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, I would like to share with you a few quotes that I found meaningful:
- “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” – Former President Lyndon B. Johnson
- “There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection.” – Former President Theodore Roosevelt
- “We who are gathered here may represent a particularly elite, not of money and power, but of concern for the earth for the earth’s sake.” – Ansel Adams, photographer
- “National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.” – Former President John F. Kennedy
Happy Centennial to the National Parks Service … and to all of us who are able to enjoy the beauty, the peacefulness and the wonders of nature in our parks. To those who, 100 years ago, had the foresight to establish the NPS, my heartfelt “Thank You!” In Part II, I will look at the future of our planet, the hurdles we face today and in the future on issues of the environment and its conservation.