Colorado Wildflowers (c) 2010 Patty Hankins
Some of my absolute favorite places to photograph are in National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and National Forests. These are some of the last unspoiled natural places in some parts of the country. When you visit a National Park or National Wildife Refuge, you can get a sense of what the landscapes were like before they became covered with buildings and highway. They are also wonderful places to see and learn about wildlife, native plants and historical events. The National Parks and Wildlife Refuges are incredible resources that need to be protected and preserved.
Unfortuantely, they don’t receive as much funding as they need from the Federal government. Over the years, a huge backlog of deferred maintainence and unfunded projects has developed. Even with all the funds directed to these areas in the 2009 economic stimulus bill, which has funded 750 million dollars in repairs and projects in the parks, there is still a several billion dollar shortfall. In the current federal budge climate, ensuring adequate funding for parks, refuges and forests will continue to be an issue.
Smoky Mountain Sunrise (c) 2008 Patty Hankins
So the question is - what can individuals do to support these incredible places?
1. Purchase an America The Beautiful Pass – at only $ 80, the America the Beautiful Pass is an interagency pass that provides admission to any National Park, National Wildlife Refuge, National Forest and other federal lands for a full year. While some Parks and Refuges have admission fees that help support them, the majority do not.
2. Shop at the stores at the Parks and Refuges. Many National Parks and Wildlife Refuges have gift shops that feature items related to nature and places you are visiting. Many of the stores are run by Friends organizations and profits from the stores help support the Park or Refuge where it is located.
3. Join a Friend of a Park or Refuge Organization. From the Great Smoky Mountains Association to the Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, there are a variety of organizations that support a specific park or refuge. When you join, you not only are supporting a place you love, but you also receive benefits such as discounts at stores and recipriocol discounts at other parks and refuges.
4. Contribute to one of the non-profit organizations that supports the National Parks, Refuges and Forests. There are several national non-profit organizations that help protect and support our public lands
- The National Parks Conservation Association works to protect and enhance America’s National Parks for present and future generations.
- The National Park Foundation works to strengthen the connection between the American people and their National Parks by raising private funds, making strategic grants, creating innovative partnerships and increasing public awareness. It was established in 1967 by an Act of Congress.
- The National Wildlife Refuge Association works to to conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect, enhance, and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries that secure its ecological integrity.
- The National Forest Foundation works to promote the health and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System.
If you enjoy spending time in the National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and Forest as much as I do, I hope you’ll consider ways in which you can help support them.