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The Evolution of Conservation

There’s something magical about taking those first steps once you get to a trailhead. As you take each conscious step to connect to the Earth beneath your feet, surrounded by forest pines, vibrant skies above, and the sounds of wildlife all around, you can feel your breath change to match the energy that can only be found in nature. It can almost feel like a spiritual transformation, especially the further away you get from the world, society, to-do lists, and daily worries. It’s no wonder we love our majestic national and state parks.

Ironically, it is this very love of nature that could also be harming these sacred places. Who knew the visitor experience could be a negative impact! That’s certainly not what we think, or feel, when we’re out there. But over-crowding, climate change, air and noise pollution, and even technology and social media are contributing to the destructive impact occurring in the national parks.

Grand Canyon National Park/Photo courtesy of NPS

Who loves waiting in line?! How about fights in the parking lot over a parking space? Um, yeah, nobody. Well, that’s what’s beginning to happen in places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks. These epic views being posted on social media are drawing more crowds than ever before, which is wonderful. Everyone should be able to enjoy and love what our beautiful planet has to offer. It’s just that, it takes a lot more to get that perfect photo than we realize. Bathroom facilities, staff, and clean-up crews all become more important as more and more of us make our way into these places.

Now, it’s time for the good news. A lot of this is just the natural progression of life evolving. Things change. That’s always going to be the case, and as our interests in our national parks grows, so will our needs to maintain and care for them. The National Parks Service (NPS) is a department within our government that manages many programs to support the conservation and recreation of our parks. And non-profit organizations, like the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), advocate for the protection and enhancement of America’s national parks. Current legislation has just been passed called the Great American Outdoors Act and it will provide much needed funding for long overdue maintenance projects and for important conservation to vulnerable lands.

Cleaning up at William Howard Taft National Historic Site/Photo courtesy of NPS

And! There’s ways you can get involved, too. There are volunteer opportunities where you can help with repairing trails and cleaning up trash. There are workshops at nature centers for kids and adults about conservation and wildlife. And as always, educating ourselves by doing the research, reading up, and having conversations with other like minded nature lovers is the most empowering way we can gain information so that we can affect change. For the love of the planet.

Header photo: Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area/Photo courtesy of NPS

Meghan McNichol has been wandering around the country for the last 15 years before deciding to put her house on her back and move into a van, where she’s been finding ways to live minimally, reduce her footprint, and live in harmony with the Earth.

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