Programs and companies working to save our national parks
The nation’s parks and wildlands are in trouble. President Donald Trump’s proposed 2020 budget would cut funding to the Department of Interior by 14% or $12.6 billion, with the Interior Department’s National Park Service receiving a cut of $2.7 billion. This would compound the agency’s funding crisis, leading to more layoffs and reductions in park services.
The National Park Service (NPS) is the sole federal agency charged with the maintenance and management of all federally owned lands, public parks, monuments, and memorials.
With the NPS without a permanent director (the Trump administration’s sole nomination for the job died without consideration when Congressional session adjourned last December) and the White House aggressively reducing the size of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments, the park system is both being ignored and preyed upon. Acts, such as then-acting interior secretary David Bernhardt’s decision to divert approximately $250 million from the park system’s maintenance fund to pay for custodial workers to return to work during the 2018 government shutdown, may impair future renovation and improvement projects.
When Abraham Lincoln signed into law the legislation that made the Yosemite Valley the first national park in 1864, it was with the intention that the land will be held for public use and recreation forever. With the idea that public lands are a trust enshrined to the people being a romantic notion that contrasts with the industrial mandate of the nation, the necessity to vigorously defend the national parks became part and parcel with the parks’ identity.
There are organizations and companies that have taken up this call to defend our public lands. Stacker has reviewed the companies and nonprofits that have announced financial or in-kind support of the NPS or the National Park Foundation and have compiled a list of 25 programs and organizations working to save our national parks. This list is not exhaustive or conclusive; there are hundreds of local, state, and national organizations and companies chipping in toward the fight to save our national public lands.
Our public lands are our heritage; it is the part of the national story we are leaving behind for future generations. When they are gone, a part of our shared past will disappear, too. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "There is nothing so American as our national parks…The fundamental idea behind the parks...is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."
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The granola maker Nature Valley is one of the largest corporate sponsors of the National Park System. The company has committed $3 million over the next three years, which—in part—will improve and repair the trail network.
Not to be undone, Minneapolis-based food manufacturer General Mills—the corporate parent of Nature Valley—has opted to work with the National Parks Conservation Association. For example, for National Park Week 2019, General Mills made a donation to NPCA for every social media post using the hashtag #NVFuelsParkCleanup or #YourParksYourTurn.
The Nature Conservancy
The first nonprofit on this list, the Nature Conservancy is the world’s largest nonprofit conservation group. Starting as the Ecological Society of America in 1915, the group brought together scientists and concerned citizens with the singular goal of saving our open lands. Located in all 50 states and in 50 countries, the group engages in land conservation, water cleanup funding, and public-private ecological management agreements.
Natural Resources Defense Council
Opting to use litigation to push for ecological protections, the National Research Defense Council is a network of over 2 million supporters and 500 lawyers, advocates, and scientists. The NRDC has used its legal muscle to push back on controversial projects such as the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline—which potentially threatens several crucial aquifers and cross protected lands—and oil and gas drilling off the Alaskan coastline.
The Sierra Club Foundation
One of the best-known conservation groups in the United States, the Sierra Club was the force that led to the creation of many of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park. The Sierra Club has also engaged in political advocacy, such as encouraging the creation of the National Park Service and the enlarging of federal protected tracts, such as Sequoia National Park and Grand Teton National Monument.
National Parks Conservation Association
While most conservation groups offer a large umbrella of protection that includes the national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association is solely committed toward the advocacy of the nation’s recognized wildlands. A lobbying group with over 1.3 million members and supporters, the association—through its more than a century-long existence—seeks to educate and inform decision-makers and influence legislation toward the protection of the national parks.
Indigineous Environmental Network
For most indigenous or first people, nature is sacred. As it is believed by some that humanity was placed on the planet to live in concert with nature and not necessarily hold dominion over it, protecting the land has deep spiritual necessity. The Indigenous Environmental Network was created in 1990 to connect concerned indigenous groups and individuals toward engaging in environmental and economic justice. As many national parks abut or overlap Native American-claimed or allocated lands, the IEN’s efforts to improve the tribes’ capacity to affect change in protections for sacred sites’ land, water, air, and natural resources directly impact the viability and health of the national parks.
The Japanese auto manufacturer Subaru has been singular in its love and support of the national parks. Through its “Share the Love,” “Find Your Park,” and “Don’t Fill the Landfills” initiative, the company—since 2013—has donated nearly $20 million toward the defense of the parks and helped the national parks eliminate over 66 million pounds of waste that would otherwise head to landfills.
Toms Shoes is a for-profit shoe and apparel maker that engages in a “One for One” business model. Basically, for every retail product sold, the company pledges to deliver one pair of shoes to a child in need. While this model has been argued to be practically useless and even exploitative, it does suggest the company’s stance on social justice issues. One of the projects Toms has inspired is the Parks Project, which encourages volunteerism in the national parks. Created by former Toms staffers, the project maintains a funding and e-commerce platform, where donors can buy project swag or directly donate to support park conservation efforts.
Save the Redwoods League
While the Parks Project started with conservation efforts in the southwestern United States, it now has a nationwide focus. The Save the Redwoods League, however, is more narrowly focused. Seeking to protect the redwoods and giant sequoias of northern California—which are among the oldest organisms currently alive on the planet—the League, since 1918, has protected nearly 200,000 acres of redwood forests and surrounding ecosystems. The League has restored forests from logging operations, has established private parks, and has encouraged California legislation to protect the redwoods.2018 All rights reserved.