When it comes to wilderness there is a lot to educate and discuss. John Muir once said “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” (Muir). Throughout time there have been numerous writers who have discussed the positive effects of being outdoors on the mental and emotional health, but in this paper there will be an additional discussion at hand. That is the creation of our National Parks. We as Americans are able to experience these wonderful preserved lands that have been given to us–the National Parks of the United States of America. These lands are where we are able to become enveloped, enthralled and feel at peace with nature. National parks are a place of peace, beauty and serenity. A place that is established and preserved to protect the land, animals and conserve the beauty that our creator has made for us. Here we are able to have a wilderness journey knowing that men and women alike have worked hard to protect these grounds. The purpose of this paper is to educate on the establishment and creation of National Parks, the preservation of how that is done today and the threats that are being made currently and the people to help stop these threats.When talking about the National Parks and their creation these important questions must be addressed: how were they made? Why were they created? Who created them? In an article written online from National Geographic titled U.S. National Parks in the beginning it quotes, “The parks were born because in the mid-1800s a relatively small group of people had a vision—what writer Wallace Stegner has called ‘the best idea we ever had’—to make sure that America’s greatest natural treasures would belong to everyone and remain preserved forever” (US National Parks In the beginning, para 3). This expresses the idea that is shared throughout today in America. Millions of people who visit the fifty-eight National parks have come to partake in the special and unique experience of enjoying the wonders that our ancestors were able to preserve for us. Another article written by Richard West Sellers talks about the creation of the National Parks in his book Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History : with a New Preface and Epilogue. In the book he quotes, ” The origin of the National Park Idea- who conceived it, and whether it was inspired by altruism or by profit motives has been disputed. One account became a revered part of national park folklore and tradition: that the idea originated in September 1870 during a discussion around a campfire near the Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbons river join to form the Madison River in present-day Yellowstone” (Seller, Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History with a new preface and Epilogue, pg 7-8). The article further goes on to discuss this story of this campfire talk and the birth of the National Parks. Picture that though: men and women sitting around a fire discussing the beauty of our country and being so moved by it personally that they devised a way to preserve that beauty for the generations to come. That is a vision that would touch any outdoor guru.There are two more names that come to mind when discussing the National Park systems: John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt. Both of these men were so instrumental in the establishment of National Parks that it is impossible to speak of their legacy without mentioning their strong efforts to create these preserved lands. Teddy Roosevelt did do a lot of things during his presidency, but it is known that he helped keep the ball rolling for the National Park system. To quote the National Park System articled titled Theodore Roosevelt and Conservation it quotes “Conservation increasingly became one of Roosevelt’s main concerns. After becoming president in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS) and establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments by enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act. During his presidency,Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land” (Theodore Roosevelt and Conservation para 5). Roosevelt went above and beyond and strived for something that to this present day is treasured by people who love the wilderness. In addition to this, John Muir is not to be put on the backburner when it comes to learning about the conservation of National Parks. This is because he was the creator and founder of the major environmental organization, the Sierra Club. On the official Sierra Club website under the section Who they are they quote, “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” (Sierra Club; Who They Are. para 1). He was a man that understood that conserving, preserving and enjoying the land were all cohesive. It is wonderful that the National Parks have been alive and flourishing for as long as they have. The National Park website section What We Do states, “Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. With the help of volunteers and partners, we safeguard these special places and share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year” (National Parks, What We Do par 1). The Parks have been alive for 101 years! It would have been a site to see what the Parks were upon their first creation, but what is even more fascinating is how far the National Parks Service has come in creating, building and preserving the land that we get to enjoy today. In continuation, with the creation of the National Parks we then must talk about how they are preserved, kept clean and flourish to be successful and mainted for generations to come. Let’s look at what groups help the Park be kept safe and furthermore what we as individuals can do to help our parks grow. To start we can look to a couple specific groups that have previously been mentioned as well as look to other ones that are equally crucial. The first group that we can mention and that was previously noted is the Sierra Club. Though it was previously mentioned who they are and what they do, we can now look to their mission statement on their website and it quotes, “To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives” (Sierra Club, Mission Statement Para 1). Even though their statement does not explicitly mention National Parks, it is apparent that their mission is to do exactly what they say. There are a number of ways to help our National Parks on the individual level.We can very much be a conservationist and supporter of the National Park System by doing a number of things. On the website Backpacker.com we can look to this link to see some of the steps that we can do to become a supporter and helper for the National parks. We can look to this link as a start to become an ally. https://www.backpacker.com/stories/10-ways-to-support-the-national-parks These are not the only ways that we can help the National Park system grow and be maintained. Be your own conservationist. Everytime you go out to the park make sure not to litter. Always pack in, pack out and most importantly if you do make a fire make sure to put them out the right way and effectively. Help donate, and buy a year long pass then make a effort to visit and have our own wilderness awakening. Finally, become educated on the groups that are helping the National Parks be protected. One of these groups are the National Parks Conservation Association. There are groups that are not just educating communities, but fighting and speaking up to take action and keep the Parks alive and well. There are a number of groups that are united to do one thing. Preserve National Parks so go out, be an ally and be your own conservationist for the parks, for yourself and for your generation to enjoy the land the has been given to us. Then to tie this all together with the creation of the National Parks, the groups that preserve them and the individuals who helps them with all of this, unfortunately there still comes negative consequences. Not everyone agrees with each other and agrees that this beauty should be preserved and maintained for the serenity and peace. Some people in fact want the opposite. They want to see them shrink, go away or become buildings where instead of it being a forest or trees, its a forest of building where people go to make money instead of being outside and enjoying the outdoors. Even furthermore this has not just been a current issue either, our National Parks and monuments have come under scrutiny since the establishment of them began. Instead of listing the numerous unfortunate threats that these land face we will focus on a few and we can see what our National Parks are put up against and why this must be stopped! The National Parks system are under constant threats and this day in present day has only got worse. Between wildfires, littering, pollution, and constant maintenance these are just a few issues that are affecting the National Parks. Without being too political or bias, unfortunately we live in a political climate where our president has become one of these threats. According to a report put out from USA today by Gregory Korte titled 24 National Monuments threatened by Trump’s executive order on April 26th, 2017 they quote, “Trump is targeting all or part of monuments that make up 100,000 acres or more, and were created by presidential proclamation since 1996. The White House released a list of 24 of them on Wednesday” (24 National Monuments threatened by Trump’s executive order, Korte, para 3). Furthermore the article then goes on to list the parks that are involved with this executive order. This is a foreseen problem because it does not look like it is going to get any better and because of that, the National parks are at risk and need to be saved. A problem that can both be looked at as positive and negative is overpopulation in the parks. Overpopulation is currently threatening the National Parks for a number of reasons. According to an article written by Eric Trenbeath titled National Parks Scramble to Keep Up with the Crowds he quotes “Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh acknowledges the park’s importance to the local economy, but said that the increased number of visitors is straining park staff and infrastructure and threatening natural resources –– even creating a public safety hazard at some of the more popular attractions” (Trenbeth, National Parks Scramble to Keep Up With The Crowds para 7). The article also suggests that overpopulation can be both bad and good. Meaning more people more money. This is also just one Utah National Park that is overpopulated during the summer months. Another article written by Jim Robbins titled How A Surge of Visitors is Overwhelming America’s National Parks he quotes “The visitor crush is creating two main problems – a steep decline in the quality of visitor experience that a national park is supposed to provide, and damaging impacts on the ecology of these intact natural places” (Robbins, How A Surge of Visitors is Overwhelming America’s National Parks para 7). Here we have two articles echoing the same rhetoric. So then how does one help preserve the National Parks when there is so much threat?. Yes, the parks are under threat. This was only just to name a few. Unfortunately the list of problems could go on, however it is important to realize that there are people helping and wanting to take action. A challenge for anyone would be to get involved, roll up your sleeves and become a conservationist yourself. Join one of the groups forementioned and help out. The National Parks are to be treasured and awed at, and the more action the more success there is. To conclude the National Park system and Parks itself serve more than a purpose than to make people happy, attract tourism and give a reason to go out. They are Parks that have been conserved for more than a hundred plus years and the hope is that they can be maintained for decades to come. Whether it is pollution, executive orders, or over population these are parks that must and have to be conserved. It is also crucial to realize that when thinking about the National Parks and our role we must think about our purpose and the role that we play. Creation, preservation and the threats that they face. We must act if we believe and we must be a part of the solution and combat the problem. Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and many more were men who wanted one common goal. To enjoy the outdoors and have a system in place for Americans alike to go and have a journey and enjoy it with their families.Wilderness is something special and to be cherished. For each and every person it brings us happiness, spiritual awakening or mental and emotional healing. In addition it is also important to pass down these Parks and the importance down to our generation. Jack Kerouac once echoed the words “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain” (Kerouac, Goodreads.com). Whether its climbing, hiking, skiing, camping, backpacking or being outside the wilderness brings us peace and happiness. Preserving and conserving is of utmost importance so that these parks can flourish and be enjoyed forever.
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