Conservation Corner

Our national parks

The National Park Service will be 100 years old on August 25. To celebrate this grand event President Obama has decreed in 2016 all fourth graders and their families may enjoy our 400 plus park facilities free of admission charges. Many families are taking this open door policy to experience nature which has been carefully preserved for all of us to enjoy. The park rangers provide programs day and night for all age groups. Children and teens can earn junior ranger badges when they successfully finish fun, educational projects. Seniors, U. S. citizens at 62 years or older, may purchase a lifetime pass for only $10 to all park facilities.

The awareness of the need to set aside virgin land for parks was present in 1864 when Congress granted the Yosemite Valley to California. In 1869, the beauty found in the Yosemite Valley made John Muir, a 31-year-old sheep herder, realize the fragility of nature could not withstand the invasion of his sheep and thousands of other visitors. Muir, also known as father of American conservation, devoted the rest of his life to encourage the preservation of land, set aside from human development which had rapidly expanded into the western frontiers.

The beauty of the western land attracted Easterners to tour and explore the west. Congress named Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872. The creation of other national parks in the West followed under the influence of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The proper maintenance of our national parks, monuments and reservations, however, didn’t happen until Congress passed the Organic Act in 1916, establishing the National Park Service “to promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations.”

In these 100 years our national park system has grown into 59 national parks and 352 monuments, historical sites, seashores and recreation areas, covering 84 million acres of land. The size of a site can vary from several million acres of forest to the national monument like the National Mall in Washington D.C. These sites preserve the history, culture and natural beauty of our country. The national parks protect water supplies, preserve wild animals and provide better air quality to all the surrounding land. Visitors can choose diverse recreational and educational programs in the parks, away from the pollution, congestion and noise of the outside world. Let’s help the National Park Service protect these sites and preserve them for future generations to enjoy as a part of healthy living.

Arizona is fortunate to have three national parks – Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Saguaro; 18 national monuments are scattered around the state. Coronado in Hereford is the lone national memorial. Tumacacori National Historic Park is located in the town with the same name. Fort Bowie and Hubbell Trading Post are two national historic sites. Our heritage is rich and varied. How many of these sites have you visited?