The National Park Service is a proud protector of America's lands. Preserving our land not only safeguards the environment, but it also protects the stories, cultures, and histories of our ancestors. As we face the increasingly dire consequences of climate change, it is imperative that we continue to expand America's protected lands under the oversight of the National Park Service. Doing so combats climate change and allows all American's to visit, explore, and learn from these treasured places for generations to come. It is critical that President Obama acts swiftly to preserve land that is at risk of external threats before the end of his term as it has become blatantly clear that the next administration will not hold the same value for our environment over the next four years.
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. On the eve of their 100th birthday, President Obama marked the occasion by designating Katahdin Woods and Waters a National Monument. Located in Maine, this land encompasses 87,500 acres and is treasured for its rich biodiversity. By designating this land as a National Monument, it permanently falls under the protection of the National Park Service who guarantees that it is maintained and cared for. In the year leading up to the 100th anniversary, President Obama also created the Pullman National Monument in Illinois, Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado, and the Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii. To instill a love for America's great outdoors in the next generation he also launched the Every Kid in a Park program which provides all 4th-grade students and their families' free admission to all National Parks and Federal land and water sites.
Following in the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt, President Obama has cumulatively preserved millions of acres of American land, but there is still more work to be done. Outstanding is an unprotected piece of land in southern Utah called Bears Ears. Bears Ears covers 1.9 million acres and is not afforded the protections that come with being cared for and maintained by the National Park Service. This site, named for its distinctive rock formations that look like a set of bears ears, is home to over 100,000 archaeological sites and 18 wilderness study areas. It also holds deep cultural and spiritual significance to the 26 tribes who are calling on President Obama to declare the land a national monument.
As a National Monument, cared for by the National Park Service, the cliff paintings, cherished burial grounds, and natural habitats that rest in Bears Ears will no longer be at risk of vandalism and unintentional damage from visitors. Instead, once protected, visitors will be able to experience the beauty of Bears Ears scenic overlooks, learn about its rich Native American history, and take an active role in preserving this valuable piece of land.
It critical that President Obama acts now to protect Bears Ears and other American lands and waters as our environment will not be afforded the same protections under the next Administration. Protecting Bears Ears will solidify President Obama's legacy as one of the most environmentally conscious president in history, while also safeguarding a people's history, countless ecological sites, and a piece of our planet that we will loose if not protected now.
Photo Credit: Tim D. Peterson