The National Parks Conservation Association Wants Your Photos!

The National Parks Conservation Association is looking to send a message to the folks in Washington, D.C., and they’d like our help in doing it.

The non-profit organization is dedicated to protecting and preserving America’s national parks for future generations, but with potential budget cuts looming the fear is that members of Congress may have forgotten just how special those places truly are. That’s where we come in. The NPCA is asking us to submit our favorite photos from our visits to the national parks so that they can be used in an upcoming advocacy video. The hope is that that video will help convey just how passionate travelers are about the park system.

So dig out those photos of you hiking in Yellowstone, climbing in Yosemite or rafting in the Grand Canyon. Share your pics from that camping trip to the Great Smokey Mountains that you took with your dad when you were 10. Whatever images convey great memories from your national park excursions, the NCPA wants to see them.

You’ll find complete details on how you can share your pictures at, which has specific details on how to get the images into the hands of NPCA. There are options to email the files directly, share them via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest or simply to upload them through the organization’s website.

This is our chance to help explain just how important our national parks are to us. Who knows, your photo may just be the one that speaks directly to one of the Congressmen or women who will be deciding their fate in the weeks and months ahead.

[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]


New Poll Shows Strong Support For National Parks Amongst Voters

A new poll has once again shown overwhelming support for national parks amongst registered voters in the U.S. Sending a clear message to elected officials, more than 95 percent of those surveyed indicated that they wanted the federal government to make the parks a priority and ensure that they will be around for future generations to enjoy as well.

The poll, which was commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA), was conducted with a national sample of registered voters from June 12-17 of this year. Eight out of ten respondents said that they had visited a national park at least once in their lives and nearly 90 percent said that they would like to visit a park in the future. Those high numbers are an indication of the overall importance of national parks to American travel and outdoor recreation, not to mention the country’s history and heritage.

The survey also revealed that only 6 percent of respondents feel that the national parks are in good shape as they are today. On the other hand 80 percent felt that the Park Service is underfunded and that the lack of funds is causing damage to the parks themselves. This is of particular importance as a further round of budget cuts are scheduled for early next year, which could result in fewer park rangers and the closure of some sites.

As the U.S. prepares for what is sure to be a contentious election this fall, candidates should take note of these numbers. A commitment to maintaining the park system shows a strong connection with environmental issues and the parks also generate a significant return on investment for the U.S. economy. According to the NPCA, funding for the entire park system is less than 1/13th of one percent of the total federal budget, yet the parks generate $31 billion in private-sector revenue and more than 258,000 jobs. Candidates should also be aware that 77 percent of those surveyed indicated that it is the responsibility of the next president to ensure that the parks are properly funded and restored for future use.

I’m a traveler who simply loves the amazing landscapes that make up our national parks, and while I wasn’t a part of this survey, I certainly would have responded similarly. The park system is a national treasure and I’d hate to see budget cuts undermine these great places. Lets hope that the next presidential administration and Congress recognize this as well and keep the parks protected.

National Parks Conservation Association launches official blog

The National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect and preserve America’s wild and historic places, officially launched their new blog earlier this week. The site, which can be found at, went online just as America’s first Summit on National Parks was getting underway.

As you would imagine with any new blog, content is a bit sparse at the moment, but already filing in nicely. Eventually the site will be home to a wide variety of news stories and features on the parks and NPCA efforts to protect them, as well as photos and videos from those amazing places. The blog already features a four-minute video tour of Yosemite and a great overview of the proposed Lone Star National Recreation Area, which we told you about last week, with plenty more content to come soon.

The blog’s first official post came from NPCA President Tom Kiernan who discussed America’s Summit on National Parks, a symposium that wrapped up yesterday in Washington, D.C. At the Summit, a number of leaders in conservation, tourism, education, and a variety of other fields, came together to discuss the future of the national parks in the U.S. as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Park Service in 2016. The parks currently face a variety of threats, including climate change, pollution, and massive budget cuts, just to mention a few, and the attendees of the conference discussed ideas on how to continue to preserve America’s wild places for future generations to enjoy, while meeting those challenges.

Judging from the attendance numbers – which continue to rise to historic levels – travelers see the value of protecting the national parks too. Now, thanks to this new blog, they have a tool for staying connected to parks and staying informed of the efforts to protect them.

Proposed national recreation area could mean vistors, revenue for Texas

According to a study by the National Parks Conservations Association, a proposed national recreation area along the Gulf Coast of Texas could bring a host of benefits to the state, including more visitors, jobs, and revenue. The creation of this new recreation area would also have the added benefit of protecting the coastline from hurricane damage, while preserving the fragile ecosystems that exists there.

Plans for the so-called Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area came about when prominent local businessman John Nau and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker put together a team to investigate the possibilities of creating such a preserve. The proposed site would span four Texas counties, including Matagorda, Brazoria, Galveston, and Chambers. That region was specifically chosen for its outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation and the existing infrastructure of both publicly and privately managed lands.

When the NPCA got wind of the plans back in December, they immediately went to work conducting their own research on the possible economic impact of the new national recreation area. Their findings bode well for the future economic healthy of the region. The organization predicts that creating the NRA would triple the number of visitors to the region in the first ten years alone, which translates to a projected $192 million in local revenue, along with more than 5200 jobs.

Economic gains aren’t the only touted benefits for the new NRA either. The designated lands would also serve as a buffer from powerful storms coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, helping to mitigate damage to property further inland and keeping flood waters to a minimum as well. Furthermore, residents living in and around the recreation area would also see a rise in their quality of life too. Having a fantastic, and federally protected, outdoor playground in their backyard, provides unhindered access to nature that might not be there if the land isn’t protected.

The NPCA report notes that the designation of the new National Recreation Area won’t result in the economic benefits alone, but will lay down the ground work to facilitate development of the region. A coordinated approach to that development could turn the Texas Gulf Coast into a premiere outdoor destination however, which could attract hundreds of thousands of visitors on an annual basis.

Having visited this area myself, I can say that it is already a good destination for outdoor enthusiasts. That said however, it has the potential to be even more amazing if it garners the national recreation area designation. That would not only protect it for future generations to enjoy as well, but help facilitate the development of an infrastructure that will make it more accessible as well.

[Map courtesy Dan Servian, Direwolf Graphics]

National Park Service prepares for its second century

Last week the National Park Service celebrated its 95th anniversary. Over the past nine-and-a-half decades, the NPS has been protecting and managing some of America’s most amazing wild places, with the charge of ensuring that those places are “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” That hasn’t always been an easy task however, and now more than ever, the parks face incredible challenges. Yesterday, the Park Service released a comprehensive plan that will chart its course over the next five years, leading up to its centennial in 2016, and beyond.

In that plan, which is entitled A Call to Action: Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement, the Park Service challenges its employees and partners to work together towards a common goal, namely preparing the NPS for a second 100 years of service. The plan outlines 36 different areas of opportunity for the Park Service in which they can more fully engage visitors in the parks, continue to preserve America’s favorite places, improve educational outreach, and become more efficient as an organization.

A Call To Action identifies a variety of goals for the Park Service, including creating a “State of the Park” report for each of the 50 States, studying the economic impact that parks have on surrounding communities, and finding ways to enhance cultural diversity across the entire system. The report also acknowledges the importance of addressing the impact of climate change and establishing a national parks endowment, amongst other things. In short, it is an ambitious, important outline of where the Park Service wants to go by the end of its first century, so it can be better prepared to serve in its second.

The National Parks Conservation Association, was quick to praise the Park Service plan as well. The organization’s President, Tom Kiernan, called A Call To Action “a very strong and important step towards ensuring our spectacular national park landscapes, wildlife, and American history and heritage are better protected for future generations.” But the NPCA says that for this plan to succeed, it needs the support of Congress and the President. With a $600 million annual budget shortfall, the Park Service obviously faces serious difficulties in completing its mission on a yearly basis.

U.S. national parks continue to be very popular travel destinations for both Americans and foreign visitors alike. With this plan, the Park Service has set its sights on the future, while identifying its biggest challenges and ways to overcome them. Those challenges, at times, can seem very daunting, but the Park Service, the NPCA, and their partners are prepared to take them on.