Give back on National Public Lands Day


All across America, from California to Connecticut, Montana to Mississippi and thousands of places in between, citizen volunteers will work to improve public lands around our country in support of the 26th annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD) on Saturday, Sept. 28.

At least 100,000 volunteers are expected to give their time and strength to work on trails, clean up parks, remove trash from rivers and lakes, plant trees, remove invasive species and so much more.

How could freedom be any more represented than in our American birthright of access to our nation’s hundreds of millions of acres of public lands? To launch a canoe on a river, then gradually work your way downstream, knowing wherever you stop, wherever you sleep, it’s on your land, but also on my land. We, collectively, as citizens of this great country, still have access to many of her grandest landscapes. It is on us to keep them pristine.

According to a press release, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) leads the efforts of NPLD. They are supported by their national corporate sponsor Toyota, seven federal agency partners, hundreds of state and local partners, and dozens of nonprofit organizations. National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for America’s public lands.

Organizers estimate NPLD volunteers contributed an estimated $11 million worth of services to public lands during last year’s NPLD celebration.

“Volunteers are absolutely vital to parks across the country,” National Environmental Education Foundation president and CEO Meri-Margaret Deoudes said. “National Public Lands Day connects people to nature through service. It is the perfect opportunity to care for our public lands while spending time with family and friends and taking advantage of all the benefits that come from spending time outdoors.”

Having worked in nonprofit leadership, I know firsthand how critical volunteers are to any mission. To really move boots on the ground, you are almost always relying on people providing services from their heart, because they care about the cause. I don’t know if I can name a cause more important than taking care of our public lands. Without them, so many of our opportunities to pursue other passions, like bird watching, hunting, camping, hiking and fishing, would be greatly diminished.

The other side of the nonprofit coin is financial support. It’s not easy to raise money to complete projects. When corporations give to support initiatives that matter to you, hopefully you feel appreciative. Toyota makes numerous vehicles that are designed for time spent outdoors and in turn financially supports efforts to protect our public lands.

“Over the past 21 years, tens of thousands of Toyota employees have volunteered for projects associated with NPLD. The approximate value of their donated time and resources is around $5 million,” said Curt McAllister, midwest public relations manager and outdoor communications manager for Toyota Motor North America. “This year, we expect around 2,400 Toyota colleagues to help with 37 cleanup sites in 18 states as well as Puerto Rico. Toyota has long been an environmentally-focused company and its employees are equally passionate about this country’s natural resources.”

Many of the most iconic outdoor destinations in the country have scheduled activities for NPLD. A few sample events across the country include:

Yosemite National Park: One of the largest NPLD events, the annual Facelift at Yosemite National Park is expected to draw 2,000 volunteers out for a park-wide cleanup. Organized by the Yosemite National Park Volunteer Office and the Yosemite Climbing Association, Facelift attracts climbers from all over the world who spend up to a week giving back to this premier climbing spot. Athletes from The North Face and Black Diamond will be teaming up with the Yosemite Climbing Stewards and Climbing Management Team to rappel and remove trash left on ledges on El Capitan and Mount Watkins.

Mount Rainier: With more than 1.5 million visitors passing through Mount Rainier National Park between Memorial Day and Labor Day, park staff rely on NPLD volunteers to spruce up the mountain after a summer of wear and tear and help get the site ready for winter. NPLD volunteers will help refurbish the park’s 260 miles of trails and restore meadowlands.

Grand Canyon: At the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service staff will work with NPLD Volunteers to use hand tools to construct a 1/2 mile trail around Pakoon Springs.

Mark Sept. 28 and figure out a way to give back the outdoors you care so much about. Go to your favorite park or any other piece of public property and find a way to leave it better than you found it.

See you down the trail …

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Tribune.

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