Dear future president,
This year marks the 100th year that our national park service has been in operation. Last year, 307,247,252 people visited U.S. national parks according to the National Park Service. It’s no surprise that these large amounts of people are visiting the spectacular sights of Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and a wide array of other preserved land here. More than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon alone every year. It’s one of many things the United States is known for. It is important not to overlook how much these national parks make a difference in our country. The U.S. national parks are valuable to the U.S. economy, the biodiversity of North America, and the educational/spiritual growth of all who visit them.
Firstly, national parks can have many positive effects on the economy. For example, Muir Woods in San Francisco brought in approximately 14.5 million people for recreation visits in 2010 (nps.gov). The people visiting this park to see the redwoods likely purchase items near the park, boosting the local economy, and the higher visitation creates more jobs both within and outside of the parks service. Muir Woods is now considered one of the gems of San Francisco, but it wasn’t always this way. Sometime after it was first bought by William Kent and his wife in 1905 (to protect one of the last uncut areas of redwood), there was a forest fire, and many argued that using the trees for lumber would be the best option. The Kent’s donated the land to the federal government and “in 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt used the 1906 Antiquities Act to proclaim the area a national monument” (NPS). Because of this preservation, trees as high as 258 feet still stand in Muir Woods. These amazing sights bring in tourists to many communities in the U.S. that are near national parks, monuments, etc. The trees present in Muir Woods do more than just bring in visitors; they also have ecological benefits.
Besides lifting the tourism industry and creating jobs, national parks help preserve biodiversity and can help control the effects of climate change. Using the example of Muir Woods again, the 258 feet trees have an immense amount of bark. Tree bark, after all, is where much of a tree’s carbon is held. On average, “a tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old” (ncsu.edu). Compare this with Muir Wood’s redwoods and the impacts on carbon storage are astounding. According to the NPS, “the average age of the coastal redwoods at Muir Woods is between 600 to 800 years, with the oldest being at least 1200 years old”. This fact, along with the increased surface area, shows that areas such as Muir Woods are vital to carbon sequestration and decreasing our carbon footprint. On a broader scale, a large majority of U.S. national parks and preserves help protect biodiversity by preventing habitat destruction. Many animal and plant species wouldn’t exist if they weren’t protected by the government. Seeing and learning about these plant and animal species can be beneficial to the people who visit national parks.
Finally, our national parks can help educate their visitors and provide an area for people to make a spiritual connection with nature. I know I had both experiences when I visited Grand Canyon National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. My family and I hiked down to the bottom of the canyon and up some of the mountains in each park respectively. We also stopped at many of the informational buildings in these parks. I was able to gain experiences I never could have in other places and learn about things first hand as opposed to just from a book by visiting national parks. I saw many children who were very fascinated with the incredible vastness of the Grand Canyon. I think whenever there are things in nature that pull people away from their devices, that demand your full attention, that those things are truly valuable. I saw this when I was at both national parks. At Rocky Mountain National Park, I got to climb Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado, and learn from nature first hand. These educational and spiritual connections formed from time spent at national parks add to what makes the National Park Service’s work so important.
As shown, our national parks, monuments, preserves, are valuable assets to our country that should continue to be protected and even expanded upon. They help our economy through the creation of jobs and increased tourism. Additionally, our national parks help preserve the nature that is unique to North America. And lastly, children and adults alike gain an increased sense of wonder as well as knowledge by visiting them. There’s a U.S. national park for everyone. The highest point in North America is found in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska (Mt. McKinley at 20,320ft) while the lowest point in the western hemisphere is found in Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California (282 ft below sea level). The U.S. contains the oldest national park, founded in 1872, Yellowstone National Park and added it’s 59th park, Pinnacles, California, in 2013. By acknowledging the importance of the National Parks Service and expanding the number of national parks and monuments present in our country, the U.S. can gain even more benefits from this vital component of our country’s identity.