Each April, by presidential proclamation, there is a week dedicated to celebrating the 401 units of the National Park system. This years National Park Week will be from April 19th through the 27th; with the weekend of April 19th and 20th being a fee free weekend! The National Park Service teams up with the National Parks Foundation to present National Park Week and this year their theme is “National Parks: Go Wild!”. You see watch the promotional video below that was built on that theme (the music is a little strange…).
There are various events planned at each individual unit of the National Park system to celebrate National Park Week. To find out what is happening at a park near you, go the events calendar and search for nearby parks. But some of the days of the week are themed. For example, April 26th is National Junior Rangers day! National Park Week is also coinciding with Earth Day this year. Earth Day is April 22nd and parks are encouraging people to volunteer their time at a National Park that day. You can find volunteer opportunities here.
Overall, the point of the week is just to go out and celebrate our nation’s natural areas, cultural history, and heritage. Last year I spent some of National Park Week 2013 in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This year, I will have to stay closer to home, maybe a day trip to Golden Spike National Historic Site?
What are you doing to celebrate National Park Week?
March has been a busy month as far as public lands are concerned and not all of the news has been good. A few major events have happened (or will be happening in a couple of days) related to US public lands this month and in this post I plan to touch briefly on all of them. The take-home message is this: the current Congress is not doing enough to ensure the long-term protection of wildlands in the United States and instead is attempting to make it harder for the President to circumvent Congress to protect natural areas.
Earlier this week a friend of mine posted the music video below to Facebook. Given that I am currently doing some winter data collection in Grand Teton National Park, I immediately fell in love with the song (please ignore the fact that there are no shots of the Tetons in the actual video…). While the song itself is pretty awesome, the reason it was written is even more exciting.
Sadly, it was not my research that was featured by National Geographic. As Dave recently found out, one of the benefits – or possibly curses depending on your perspective – of studying charismatic megafauna (particularly a species that is threatened by climate change) is that people actually pay attention to your research. A couple of weeks ago, while I was all excited about my lab’s work being published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environmental, Dave had to “one-up” me.
Dave’s Nightmare (from PhD Comics)
Given that recreation ecology is an emerging field of study, the journals that we publish in – while good and important journals – do not usually have the highest impact factor or are the most widely read. However, that may be changing! My advisor, Chris Monz and two Australian colleagues, authored the cover article of this month’s issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The October 2013 issue also features a Guest Editorial by another well-known recreation ecologist out of Australia – Ralf Buckley. Frontiers is a journal published by the Ecological Society of America and hopefully the October issue, which puts recreation ecology in the spotlight, will be just the first step in introducing recreation ecology research to a broader scientific audience.
On August 25th, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act which created a new agency within the Department of the Interior called the National Park Service. At this point, the Department of the Interior was struggling to manage 14 national parks and 21 national monuments. The task was becoming too daunting and thus a the new agency was created with the sole responsibility:
“to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
In honor of the National Park Service’s birthday, I decided to write a short post about the first director of the National Park Service: Stephen T. Mather.
Portrait of Stephen T. Mather from 1916