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This upcoming Saturday, the 26th - fourth Saturday of September, just in time for Fall - is National Public Lands Day. It’s the country’s largest, single-day volunteer effort to help preserve and restore our public lands. It’s a celebration that inspires environmental stewardship, imploring everybody from locals to state officials to examine our connection with our very own green spaces. Most importantly, it looks at the various ways that the environment is used as an outlet for recreation, education and health benefits. Additionally, all National Park entrance fees are waived on this day. While we’re encouraging some safe social distancing, if there is any secluded expedition you’ve had your eyes set on - this is the day to embark on it.
While we love any chance we get to celebrate the great outdoors and the therapeutic effects they have on us and this planet - it’s also important to look critically at the treatment it's received over the course of history. Poor maintenance, financial instability, commercial exploitation and severe degradation are just a few of the issues faced by our public lands. While a good deal of this can be attributed to national agencies that maintain and manage public lands, there is still work that we the public can do.
Voting is one of the most impactful ways to make your voice heard - keep an eye out for bills that emphasize the protection of public lands as opposed to energy protection. Recreationists and outdoor sportsmen alike should consider themselves conservationists and have an important stake as citizens in these initiatives.
Native American tribes are one of the primary protectors of public lands, due to the resounding and historic sacred value they hold. Tribes and tribal coalitions work on the frontlines in collaboration with federal agencies to protect important natural and cultural resources, and sustain lands that have been vital to their communities for thousands of years.
Fun fact: Native-Land.ca shows you which Indigenous lands you're living on. Type in your address and see centuries of history.
Another major contributor are companies - specifically ones who make a significant portion of their business via outdoor recreation. There are lots of coalitions and pledges that businesses take to illustrate their commitment and efforts towards sustaining public lands and the environment - Recreate Responsibly being just one of them.
Federal public lands spanning some 600 million acres are owned by every US citizen, and are managed by professional land managers within federal agencies meant to serve our benefit as well as future generations. This is known as stewardship - compared to state owned lands which can be sold via highest bid, and is a common occurrence when land is in state hands. It’s our civic duty to closely observe new bills and initiatives, and to vote in a manner that aligns with conservation efforts as opposed to energy consumption.
National Public Lands Day drives home the sentiment that we must take care of these lands not only for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren and their families - a profound ideal and tradition of our country. While volunteer community gatherings and events might be restricted this year due to COVID-19, consider attending one next year. They’re productive spaces for folks to come together, swap stories and bond through their love for the outdoors and our lands.
If you’ve been following us a while, or using our original camp chairs, you know that we stand with conservation and volunteer efforts in doing everything we can to preserve public lands. We hope that this year, National Public Lands Day inspires you to reflect on how we can embrace our stewardship year round.