Presented by the FBB Staff
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Hello, dear readers of the Finest Bagels Blog
For almost a year now, you have been following along with us as we write about America’s Best Idea, the National Parks Service. But this month we want to talk to you about something a little different: what YOU can do to support the parks.
As many of you may know, there is some concern that the National Parks are in trouble. As covered in our article about the struggles of preserving nature in an all-access environment, the parks service was already facing plenty of challenges. Visitorship of the parks is at an all time high, but this has created scores of conservation problems. Republicans in both Utah and Maine have asked President Trump to make the completely unprecedented move of decertifying national parks in their states. Parks Service employees have “Gone Rogue” on social media. These are truly troubling times for the Parks.
So, we hope that our posts in this Revisiting America’s Best Idea series have inspired, rekindled, or augmented your love of the National Parks. And we also hope that you want to help the parks. Don’t know where to start? It’s okay, we have a few suggestions on ways to do that:
1) Call, write, and email your elected officials:
Unsurprisingly, calling is better than Snail Mail, which itself is better than Email. Call or Write your elected officials and tell them that you want them to help protect the parks rather than cutting their funding. This can be especially important now while Congress is (hopefully) finalizing its budget for the coming fiscal year. Your state representatives are fair game too! In Maine, it was Governor LePage who requested that Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument be de-listed as a national monument. In Utah, it was Republicans in the state legislature who began the push to remove Bear Ears National Monument. State officials are still incredibly important in the fight for the parks, and they deserve plenty of our attention too. Not sure who your elected officials are? Just want to double check? Common Cause has a handy tool where you just plug in your address and it pulls up your representatives at the state and federal level, which you can try here!
2) Friends Groups
There are over 200 local “friends” groups in the U.S.. Friends Groups, short for “Friends of the Park,” are groups of ordinary citizens which coordinating giving, volunteering, activism, fundraising, and other activities for a specific National Park in their area. These groups often work informally with local Parks Service officials, and as such are aware of how to contribute most effectively to help the park achieve strategic goals. Not only are these an effective means of helping the parks, but they’re also a great way to meet fellow parks-lovers in your community! You can find out more about local friends groups here.
Have a National Park nearby that you love, but it doesn’t have a friends group yet? There are still plenty of volunteering opportunities at nearly every site the Parks Service manages. Use this map to find a park near you, and contact their Volunteer Coordinator! Your time and effort help the Parks do more with less, and it’s one of the best ways to help a park in your community.
The National Parks Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is connected with the National Parks Conservation Association. They publish a yearly Congressional Scorecard, rating members of Congress on their actions in support of the Parks, with a pretty simply methodology: Vote for pro-park bills and amendments, your score goes up. Vote for anti-park bills and amendments, your score goes down. Take a look at their annual reports (2016 report here). They have every Congressperson broken down by state. If you’re represented by someone who wasn’t supportive of the parks, vote that fucker out in 2018.
So maybe you don’t have time to volunteer, and the next Congressional Election isn’t until 2018. BUT there are plenty of great organizations that you can donate to and help the cause of the National Parks.
National Parks Foundation – The National Park Foundation, the official charitable partner of the National Park Service, enriches America’s national parks and programs through the support of private citizens, park lovers, stewards of nature, history enthusiasts, and wilderness adventurers. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the Foundation grew out of a legacy of park protection that began over a century ago, when ordinary citizens took action to establish and protect our national parks.
National Parks Conservation Association – Since its founding in 1919, National Parks Conservation Association has been the independent, nonpartisan voice working to strengthen and protect America’s favorite places.With 1.3 million members and supporters beside them, they are the voice of America’s national parks, working to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for present and future generations. We celebrate the parks — and work tirelessly to defend them — whether on the ground, in the courtroom or on Capitol Hill.
Sierra Club – Founded by legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is now the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization — with three million members and supporters. Our successes range from protecting millions of acres of wilderness to helping pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. More recently, we’ve made history by leading the charge to move away from the dirty fossil fuels that cause climate disruption and toward a clean energy economy
National Resource Defense Council – The NRDC works to combine the power of more than two million members and online activists with the expertise of some 500 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.
League of Conservation Voters – The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) works to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities. LCV, in collaboration with their state LCV partners, advocates for sound environmental laws and policies, holds elected officials accountable for their votes and actions, and elects pro-environment candidates who will champion our priority issues.
By far one of the most enjoyable things you can do to help support the parks, visit them! Bring a friend! Bring your family! The National Parks are fun for people of all ages, and your visit helps support the park and the surrounding community. You may even give birth to newfound love of the parks with the people you bring along. Just remember to be a good guest while you’re there. Follow signs and instructions, and please please don’t litter.
While we hope that this article can serve as a starting point for your new found environmental activism, it is far from a comprehensive list. No matter how you do it, the important part is to get out and do something. At the end of the day our National Parks belong to all of us, and as such the responsibility for protecting them falls to all of us. We’ll see you out there!