Recognizing the Importance of State and National Parks

How many of you grew up camping? I’m old enough to be from the pop-up camper era when they provided nothing more than two slide-out beds and a canvas overhead. Now we were real campers (said with a wink).

As we come up on Memorial weekend, the unofficial kickoff of summer, I find myself reminiscing of wonderful times spent in state and national parks. What a gift we have in these natural landscapes—can you imagine our country being without them?

This Mongabay article extended such musing to a whole world without parks. Like, what if Yellowstone National Park belonged only to cattle ranchers and gated communities? Or the forests of Manu National Park in Peru had long been logged and its indigenous tribes were now dead?

The Blessings of Protected Land

U.S. state and national parks are areas of land protected by the government in order to preserve their cultural and natural environment. Americans foot the bill for these areas with our state and national taxes and, in turn, we have the privilege of enjoying them. But even if one were to never visit a single park (although I can’t imagine why), they would still benefit from them in a myriad of ways.

Tools for Preservation
According to this World Atlas article, 14% of the United States is protected land and another 12% are protected waters. This means almost 500,000 square miles each of land and water that preserve landscape, plants, and animals that otherwise could be destroyed. This biodiversity is necessary for all human life, whether we personally enjoy protected areas or not.

Our state and national parks offer hands-on educational opportunities in everything from science, math, social studies, history, literature and the arts. Now let’s expand those learnings to social skills, health, peace of mind, and so much more. Once again, maybe you don’t frequent parks? But those who do take this education on to make our world a better place—a place you’re living in!

Boost to the Economy
A 2015 report shows natural protected areas worldwide get 8 billion visits per year. Eight billion! The study also estimates that’s worth $600 billion in direct tourism spending. The economic outpour from this is huge, not only to the parks and surrounding areas but to communities far beyond.

A Challenge

This summer, I challenge you to see how many state and national parks you can visit. Get out there and appreciate the God-given gift of nature and beauty. Make use of the parks that you are paying for!

Are you from Wisconsin? Well, stay tuned, I’ve got just the thing to get you motivated!

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