(Excerpted from HECHO Board Member Juan Palma’s OpEd published in the Salt Lake Tribune on March 5, 2016)
This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and the more than 84 million acres of preserved cultural and historical landscapes that have helped shape America. We celebrate the rich history of an organization that conserves some of America’s most pristine natural and cultural wonders for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.
However, this and future generations look much different than those of 100 years ago. The National Park Service and other public land management agencies (the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Refuges) need to make some significant changes if they are to meet the needs of a changing American cultural landscape.
Agencies need to re-think their outreach strategies and develop new ways to reach minority and other underrepresented communities. We need a new vision to solve the vexing public lands issues of the 21st century — and a broader array of stakeholders to implement it. Public lands managers will need to actively engage small business owners, teachers, pastors, young people, parents, local community leaders, and other community voices. These voices are important, including an ever-growing Latino population, as we move into the next 100 years of conservation, if our public lands are to remain relevant in the priorities of the American people.
Juan Palma was the Utah state director for the Bureau of Land Management for 10 years. Read the full op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune here.