Gavin K. Oregon

The Conservation of National Parks and Forests

An essay advocating the protection of federal lands.

Dear Next President,

On July 11th, 2016 the GOP Platform, the set of principles supported by the Republican party, proposed to sell off national parks and log national forests for mass profits. This move has been a role-reversal of Republican history as prominent, historical Republican presidents have fought for their creation and maintenance. Presidents throughout the ages have viewed federal lands as important signifiers of our country’s heritage. Old and recent presidents have legally established many areas where wildlife and land cannot be harmed, which has led to enormous benefits for all. The preservation of our country’s wild areas has been a long standing tradition that the Republican party has maintained for nearly a century, and the proposed selling of these protected wild areas would undo years of work and the laws their forefathers had put in place to make them last for all ages.

When President Theodore Roosevelt was elected he immediately began a campaign to create national parks and forests as we know them. According to the National Park Service one of Teddy’s favorite hobbies as a young man was traveling the wilderness and hunting, and what he saw motivated him: “Theodore Roosevelt first came to the Badlands in September 1883. A sportsman-hunter all his life, Roosevelt sought a chance to hunt the big game of North America before they disappeared. Although his writings depict numerous hunting trips and successful kills, they are laced with lament for the loss of species and habitat. The decimation of bison, and the eradication of elk, bighorn sheep, deer and other game species was a loss which Roosevelt felt indicative of society's perception of our natural resources.” Because of the lamentable loss of the wilderness he enjoyed hunting in, he sought to establish nearly 230 million acres of land to be protected. During this President Roosevelt also created hundreds of jobs for the citizens of the U.S. and won immense public favor. Even to this day the lands he helped set up are still sited and he is known world-over as being the first “conservationist president.”

On August 26th, 2016 President Barack Obama almost quadrupled the size of the already established Papāhanaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post wrote of this momentous conservationist action and its benefits, “The president has now used his executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect more than 548 million acres of federal land and water, more than double the set-asides of any of his predecessors... All commercial extraction activities, including fishing and future deep-sea mining, will be prohibited in the expanded monument area. ” President Obama’s actions in expanding the national monument have greatly benefited marine scientists and Native Hawaiians and won their favor immensely. The national monument is now a protected home to over 14 million birds, countless fish, Hawaiian monk seals, and potentially the oldest living animal on Earth, a black coral estimated to be around 4,500 years old. Now the 548 million acres of land are an established sanctuary for generations to come and will remain so, if the GOP Platform’s proposal is rebuked.

The two Presidents mentioned here are and will be remembered for their incredible contributions to conserving the wild areas of the United States forevermore. These parks are among the most expansive and protected wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Among the dozens of national forests and parks Theodore Roosevelt established, many mammals, birds, and fish were saved from overhunting, and in the American Bison’s case, from the brink of extinction. Barack Obama’s Papāhanaumokuākea Marine National Monument expansion both serves as a refuge for wildlife and an area where Native Hawaiians can continue their ancient traditions and live, once again, in the land of their ancestors. Like many other people who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, many of my enjoyable memories and experiences were set outside in the woods or creeks out of town, and hearing that these areas will potentially be logged and sold off makes me worried about the current state of the U.S.’s relationship with its environment. Just knowing you’re reading this is an incredible honor, but now I ask of you to rebuke the GOP Platform’s proposal and continue in the respected tradition of saving the wild areas of the U.S.

Sincerely, Gavin K.