Our National Parks, Our Responsibility to Protect

By: Martha Molfetas

One hundred years ago today, the United States National Park Service (NPS) was founded. The NPS is celebrating this centennial by encouraging people to go to these precious places, as they well should. Climate organizations on the other hand are underscoring the fragility of these unique spaces. That fragility has always been a hallmark of the NPS, the reason it was founded in the first place by President Woodrow Wilson 100-years ago today. For generations, the NPS has inspired us to be better stewards of our environment, to protect these places of historic and unique natural beauty.

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.
— Theodore Roosevelt

Our nation’s 400+ National Parks are facing climate impacts that would never have been imagined in 1916. To sea level rise alone, the NPS estimates that across just 40 parks, $40 billion worth of park infrastructure and historic resources are at risk of being forever lost. National Parks like Canaveral and Biscayne in Florida, to the Statue of Liberty and the great Redwoods, to the very namesake of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska are all at risk from climate change.

The loss of these places represents not only a monetary loss of park infrastructure, but poses a serious moral question: what have we done to put these magnanimous places of natural beauty - our shared heritage - at risk for ourselves and future generations? Generations to come may never see the glaciers at Glacier Bay, or the monolithic redwoods at Redwood National Park. Our children and children’s children, may never roam the beaches of Canaveral National Seashore, or snorkel the coral reefs of Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks.

The 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service should stand as a reminder that these natural wonders are at risk. The words of Theodore Roosevelt have never been more poignant. Protecting this shared heritage for tomorrow is impossible if we fail to act on climate change today.

Photo by: Martha Molfetas, of Biscayne National Park - Florida