Since the creation of the first national park in 1872, leaps and bounds have been made in regards to the protection of public land in the US. There are currently 59 protected national parks and hundreds of thousands of acres of public land that encompass most of those truly special places that inspire us.
The American public owns national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and wildlife preserves. As the Protect Our Public Land website perfectly states, “Every American has a personal stake and a guaranteed say in how these places are cared for. And all Americans have the right to experience and enjoy these places.”
Many don’t fully realize how often their favorite outdoor activities take place in federal public land. Here are some surprising stats on where adventures happen in the US from the Protect Our Public Land website: 43% of paddling, 71% of climbing, 193,500 miles of hiking trails, and 12,659 miles of mountain biking trails take place on public land. That’s just scratching the surface; you could go deeper into skiing, fishing, hunting, camping and beyond. Not to mention these lands are also the “backbone of a $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, millions of jobs, and thriving local economies in the west.”
Unfortunately all of these beautiful places and fantastic adventure areas are at risk. Transfer legislation backed by wealthy private interests, is being pitched with aims “to dispose our shared public lands to state governments and private entities.” Not all shared public lands and state owned lands are not created equally. For federal lands, policy is created nationally but implemented locally. When a state owns the land it no longer belongs to us. It can be “sold off, developed, exploited, or turned into private real estate.” The clincher is that states have absolutely no obligation to involve the public in these decisions. Last year alone, 35 bills were introduced to seize and sell off public lands in 11 western states.
Some outstanding zones are on the hit list across 11 states, including but not limited to: Crescent Lake, Wasatch National Forest, Teton Pass, Lolo Pass, Gallatin National Forest, Fruita, Moab, San Juan Mountains, Loveland and Berthoud Passes, Salmon River, Red Rocks, and Crater Lake National Park.
We hope that we can inspire you to get out there and to get involved. Head to Protect Our Public Land to what’s really at risk, more information about the legislation being pushed, and what you can do to help keep these outdoor playgrounds public for everyone to continue enjoying. “Public lands are [the] shared American inheritance, for the good of all, not the profit of a few.”
- Katie Hitchcock