Even as early as the nineteenth century, people understood that if they didn’t take action to preserve natural spaces, those spaces would become a lot less natural as they succumbed to development, settlement, and resource exploitation. President Grant was the first president – not just in the United States, but in the world – to recognize a national park when Yellowstone National Park was threatened by developers.
Parks and wilderness areas can be valuable to everyone. Whether you’re a hardcore backpacker looking for an undeveloped patch of land in which to sleep or a day-camper who wants a light stroll and a picnic, there are few opportunities better than a park or wilderness area to get in touch with nature.
Parks, forests, wildernesses, and recreation areas – you might need to keep Wikipedia on-hand just to know the difference between the different wild options you have to visit. But our nationally- and state-protected lands are rife with natural claims to fame, from the largest tree in the world to the deepest lake in the US. And Californians, you’re in luck, because we have the most national parks of any state except Alaska, with which we are tied.
Like any other natural resource, though, parks and wilderness areas need our help. While they may be Federally protected, the government can’t prevent graffiti, poor camping etiquette, and the general wear and tear that comes from high-volume usage.
What can you do to preserve our natural spaces? First, be aware of proper behavior when hiking and camping. Different wilderness areas have different policies regarding fires and waste disposals. When hiking, stay on-trail and don’t tread the plants growing in native areas. And no matter how cute they look, don’t feed or pet the wild animals.
If you just follow the rules above, you can reduce the degree to which you damage our parks and wilderness areas. Want to do more, though? You can always donate or volunteer to push your contribution from “neutral” to “positive.”
You can’t love that which you don’t know, so nature lovers around the world should see the value in getting outside in natural areas. Do you have a favorite park or wilderness area? Share your thoughts in the comments!