This weekend, the First Family will be celebrating Father’s Day with visits to two of this country’s most amazing natural wonders – New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Yosemite National Park in California.
The visits not only highlight our National Park Service’s centennial; they also demonstrate President Obama’s commitment to and impressive legacy of public lands work.
But as meaningful as these visits are sure to be for the Obamas – not to mention the millions of park-goers making their own priceless Father’s Day memories – this occasion could have even greater meaning for future generations.
Beyond the centennial
For the past 100 years, our national parks and other public lands have been inextricably linked to our American identity. They’ve provided treasured, life-changing experiences for millions of families. But unfortunately, they haven’t always reflected our country’s diversity, nor have they always been welcoming to all.
To ensure that the parks’ next 100 years address those injustices, The Next 100 Coalition, a first-of-its-kind coalition of civil rights, environmental justice, conservation and community leaders, has created a vision statement and policy recommendations to create a new, inclusive future for our public lands.
The coalition’s common-sense vision for the future of our public lands is simple:
1. Reflect the faces of our country. Our public lands must reflect he demographic and ethnic diversity of our nation’s citizens among visitors, the agencies’ workforce and in the designation of new units. This will require a cultural shift within the agencies responsible for managing and overseeing these spaces and a commitment from people outside the agencies to join together to support this approach.
2. Respect for all cultures. Our public lands play a unique role in capturing the many different historical, cultural and spiritual stories that have shaped this country; celebrating acts of bravery and sacrifice, recognizing the unique contributions of all Americans and providing opportunities for atonement and healing. We need to make sure the full range of these stories are being told at existing and new park sites and public lands. Protecting cultural and natural landscapes that tell America’s complex history will help us learn from our past, honor our ancestors and educate future generations.
3. Responsibility to actively engage all people. The future of our public lands depends upon public support from all Americans. Moving forward, we must actively and authentically engage a diverse range of communities in new and meaningful ways to build support for our public lands and shape the direction of our future public lands and natural resources policies.
A new future for our public lands
As the President shines a light on the beauty of our public lands this Father’s Day weekend, he has a unique opportunity to ensure that future generations – no matter what their background – are able to do the same.
Let’s call on President Obama to issue a Presidential Memorandum to ensure that the second century of conservation in America reflects the full diversity of our nation’s citizens; respects the historical, cultural and spiritual stories and unique contributions of all Americans; and actively engages all people.