Saving Our National Parks

How do we help?

By: Emily Kent + Save to a List

Our national parks are hurting. Too rapidly and increasingly we’re seeing images of our protected lands suffering trashed campsites, waste overflow, toppled trees and senseless graffiti. Health hazards are increasing for the wildlife who inhabit these spaces. While our partial government shutdown carries into it's third week, one-third of our national park sites are closed completely, while the remaining two-thirds are severely understaffed as the vast majority of park employees continue to be furloughed. Just yesterday, Joshua Tree National Park was forced to close as its iconic trees are being cut down and vandalized, new pathways are being carved out by visitors illegally off-roading, and sanitation issues continue to worsen.

U.S. national parks employ around 20,000 people. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) estimates that well over 16,000 of those Park Service employees are currently furloughed, which means the remaining few park employees who are currently working as “essential staff” during this time are tasked with managing and protecting over 80 million acres of national park lands, a near impossible responsibility to protect resources within the parks and help visitors with their experience (National Parks Conservation Association, January 11, 2019).

What can you do?

There ARE uplifting stories cropping up, spotlighting individuals who are voluntarily showing up daily to clean bathrooms, pick up trash, and make attempts to persuade people not to destroy the parks (The Washington Post, January 11, 2019). While it may not be feasible for many of us to drop our day jobs and pick up our parks until employees return, we can help to increase awareness about what is happening and learn more about the potential, harmful long-term effects. We can contact local chapters of organizations whose work is centered fully around care and protection of our public lands, and ask how to best support or get involved.

Here is a short list to help get started:

National Parks Association – 202-796-2500 

The National Parks Conservation Association – 800-628-7275

The Nature Conservancy – 703-841- 5300

The Trust for Public Land – 415-495-4014

My kids quote the well-known line from 'The Lorax' quite a bit in our house - "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

Now more than ever, they're right.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


How to start traveling and plan a road trip without breaking the bank

Jared Beeler

The Grand Circle: What It Is; Where It Is; and Why You Should Visit It

Jared Beeler

How to Find Adventure Buddies in a Digital Age

Jason Horstman

8 Ways Vanlifers Can Save Money on the Road

Bound For Nowhere