Local and national parks provide great, often awe-inspiring respites from more developed areas. According to the National Park Service, the United States is home to 59 protected areas designated as national parks, and the National Park Service encompasses hundreds of additional national park sites as well. In Canada, more than 30 national parks attract millions of visitors each year, supporting the notion that national parks are a global attraction worthy of governmental protection.
National parks have made headlines in 2017, as debates about oil drilling in parks in the United States drew the ire of environmentalists and outdoorsmen alike. While such debates can make everyday citizens feel helpless in regard to protecting the parks they love, the following are a handful of simple ways ordinary men and women can chip in to protect local and national parks.
Contact your local government representative. Whether you live in the United States, Canada or another country where parks are vulnerable to drilling or other potentially harmful activity, contact your local government representative to voice your concerns. One person acting alone can feel insignificant, but if enough citizens voice their concerns, they can compel their representatives to make changes that protect parks for years to come.
Obey the rules. The opportunity to explore is a great reason to visit parks, but it’s important that park visitors adhere to park rules by hiking and camping in only those areas designated as hiker- and camper-friendly. By veering off course, park visitors may inadvertently disturb local plant and wildlife.
Leave nothing behind. Memories are not the only things park visitors should take with them when they leave the park. Estimates suggest that as much as 100 million pounds of garbage are generated at California’s Yosemite National Park each year. Significant damage can result if even a tiny fraction of that garbage is left behind. In addition, park officials forced to expend their limited resources on garbage pickup may not have enough resources left to address other issues, further threatening the park. Whether you’re hiking or camping, make sure everything you take into the park comes with you when you leave. If you have trash, make sure it’s deposited into the appropriate receptacles.
Encourage activism. Outdoors enthusiasts who want to protect their beloved parks can encourage activism in their communities. Work with park officials to organize trash pickup days at the park or organize activities for school-aged youngsters that teach them the importance of conservation and respecting the environment.
Protecting parks is the responsibility of governments and their citizens. While everyday citizens may see protecting parks as a daunting task, there are many simple ways they can protect parks and preserve them for decades to come.