Every year is a great year to visit our National Parks, however 2016 is a year set a part from all the others. On August 25, 2016, America’s National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 years old, though the fascinating natural history of our national parks goes back millions of years.
There are hundreds of reason to visit our National Parks, but here are just five reasons that demonstrate the immense value of protected areas for healthy ecosystems. We hope you take some time to experience one of our U.S. National Park adventures with WWF and Natural Habitat Adventures this year.
1. Helps in recovery and conservation of species
In Yellowstone National Park is currently home to the largest herd of bison in the U.S. Partners such as WWF and national parks play an important role in their recovery. WWF is currently working to establish herds of at least 1,000 bison throughout the Northern Great Plains to achieve long-term recovery of species. Grasslands play an important role by regulating our climate through carbon storage, limiting floods and keeping our water clean through nutrient and sediment filtration.
2. Provides a natural classroom for the American public
The Grand Canyon has been declared one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is enormous in scale. It stretches for 277 miles in length, and is 6000 feet deep at its deepest point, and is as wide as 18 miles across in some places. Its grandeur has likely inspired and educated millions. However, the Colorado River, responsible for carving this wonder, remains threatened by agriculture, dams and unsustainable development outside of the park. Protected areas are still a part of the broader environment, in order to truly protect rivers and habitat for future generations, all stakeholders must be fully informed of their actions’ impacts on our ecosystem. Education and transparency are key as these treasures belong to the American public.
3. Protects critical habitat
Alaska boasts habitat key for people, wildlife and wildlife’s migration corridors. WWF has worked with partners to complete extensive mapping of waters surrounding Alaska and the Arctic to identify focal conservation areas, including the distribution of fish species. Katmai National Park is home to the largest population of protected brown bears in North America —about 2,000 of them. Many can be observed up-close at Brooks Falls and along the coast Brown bears in Alaska particularly rely on salmon during the summer months. NHA Expedition Leader, Brad Josephs, cites studies that have shown that 70% of nitrogen in the forest comes from salmon carcasses that feeding bears leave behind—this nitrogen can cause trees to be up to three times larger than trees in salmon streams without feeding bears.
4. Documents our changing world
Glacier National Park was established as America’s 10th national park in 1910. Scientists estimate there were about 150 glaciers in 1850, with most still being present when the park was established. By 2010 there were only twenty-five. Scientists predict these will disappear in the next several decades due to a rapidly changing climate. Despite changes, the Glacier National Park remains a sight to behold. The Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is widely considered the most scenic drive in America. The road crosses the Continental Divide on the spine of the Rockies as it winds through snow-covered peaks and sub-alpine meadows.
5. Provides funding for proper management
National Parks, now more than ever, are in need of critical funding that support conservation efforts. A 2015 study conducted by WWF and partners, demonstrated that in North America alone, visitors brought in close to $350 billion to parks (and three billion visits), though worldwide conservation efforts in protected areas remain vastly underfunded. We hope your visit will inspire you to tell your local government representative the importance of properly funding and managing protected areas so that future generations continue to be inspired by our world’s natural treasures.