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National Parks Revisited on Their 100th Anniversary

Denali National Park, AlaskaThis is the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. What a wonderful bipartisan step that was to institutionalize a process for creating and maintaining national parks throughout the country. They are enjoyed each year by millions of domestic and international visitors. We have been emulated by nearly every other country on earth.

In my second book, Saving the Places we Love, I provide numerous stories on the challenges that had to be overcome during the formation of our national parks. Stories about the men and women and what they had to do to help change our culture from one of exploitation to one of conservation. It took 50 years to create this change in our American culture.

There are references to stories about many of these parks throughout my book. But the main message of how we must step up to the plate now to take our turn at restoring and maintaining these parks for future generations is summarized in the Preface to this book. I have reprinted it here for you to read.

Preface to Saving the Places we Love

More than any other society in the history of the world, Americans have preserved their special places for future generations to enjoy. We have also preserved land to conserve natural resources. Without these historic and ongoing efforts, we would be a far poorer nation and know much less about nature and about ourselves.

As our population grows, our “footprint” grows as well, and our favorite places deteriorate. This will continue unless we act now to protect the places we love—the lakes, the rivers, the beaches— the places we go to for respite, rejuvenation, and inspiration.

Yosemite-National-Park-21-500x333The challenge is not a new one. Over the past 150 years our ancestors have fought long and hard to preserve, conserve, and restore beautiful parts of the country. Sometimes they succeeded, and today millions of us get to visit the incredible places they preserved: Denali, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, the Adirondacks, the Everglades, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Unfortunately, even these natural wonders are once again threatened by expanding human activity that degrades our land, water, and atmosphere.

In addition to our parks, we watch as stunning regions of our country change before our eyes. As the result of continued population growth, insufficient efforts at conservation, and our lack of planning, we are now spending $100 billion annually reacting to the damage being done. These monies are being used to restore a few important spots as they hit a crisis point—contamination of the Great Lakes, drought in the Great Plains, forest fires in the West, nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, and hurricanes on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. These are major disasters that must be repaired. But have we asked, what would it have cost to prevent them in the first place?

Have you ever wondered who is taking care of the lakes, woods, and rivers that are important to you and your community? What happens when those local ecosystems fail and you lose one of your favorite places? What could you be doing today to prevent that from happening tomorrow?

I realize that most of us do not have the time, the money, or the bandwidth to “save the planet,” a concept far too abstract and daunting. But our homes and neighborhoods, and the places where we go on vacation, are real to us. We don’t like to see them lose their magic, for they are important in our lives. You and your family may like to visit a favorite creek, a meadow, or a forest. You may have a special place as small as your backyard or as big as an ocean. As we get to know these marvelous spots, we want to protect them so we can keep coming back and eventually pass them on to our children. We develop a bond with them, a bond worth fighting for—and therein lies the key to saving special places, our country, our planet, and, finally, ourselves.

theodore_roosevelt_portraitIn this book I share the magic of my encounters with nature in places I love all across the country. I hope these stories will motivate you to go outside, explore, and fall in love with nature and the outdoors. These reflections are interwoven with stories of past and current efforts at preservation, ideas that may be of value to you. Knowing about Thoreau, Muir, Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and others can help us get through those days when we grow frustrated and angry over the current state of things. It is easy to give up when our efforts don’t work as quickly as we would like. But it takes time, and over time we will see that they do add up. There are things we can do, and we are making progress. I hope I can move you to action. I hope you will go out and find people who share your concerns, and together restore and preserve the places you have grown to love.

Ned Tillman

Columbia, Maryland

March 2014

This is an excerpt from Saving the Places we Love, available from Amazon.

Take-a-way: I think you will enjoy Saving the Places we Love if you have an interest in our national parks or in the great outdoors. I also think the book is a great gift to inspire others to become better stewards of the places they love.

1 Comment

  1. Having traveled to a number of national parks this past year I appreciate the efforts of many people to have preserved the beauty of national treasures. What is often lost is that we all share the responsibility of passing on a healthy, vibrant environment to future generations. That responsibility starts in our own yards and communities. Our actions that degrade our local environment have consequences that we will pass on to those future generations.


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