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Chance Kawar

How National Parks Inspire Us to Protect Nature and Embrace Resilience

Like so many Americans, my fascination with national parks such as Yosemite and Joshua Tree began at a young age during family road trips through California and beyond. This affinity has continued well into my adulthood, and I hope to someday have the privilege to visit all of our national parks. So far I’ve visited 29 out of 63!

Across the country, people are celebrating our beautiful landscapes and cultural treasures that comprise the United States National Park System as part of National Park Week. With special events and free admission to all national parks on April 20th, National Park Week is a moment to cherish our country’s great outdoors and steward our iconic lands.

National parks are sometimes referred to as “America’s Best Idea” – and indeed, they have helped preserve some of the most incredible and unique ecosystems while also providing access as well as educational and recreational opportunities to millions of Americans and global visitors.

However, the history of the United States’ National Parks is undoubtedly complex, with many parks occupying land stolen from indigenous peoples, who carefully stewarded and lived in these iconic environments for many generations before colonization by Europeans.

Now, climate change and policy threats pose major challenges to many of our most beloved national parks. Faced with these unprecedented challenges, scientists, conservationists, firefighters, park rangers, and others across the country are embracing nature-based solutions and traditional indigenous practices to protect these precious natural resources. If you want to learn more about these practices, I recommend the Washington Post’s Field Trip podcast.

In spite of these difficult circumstances, I am personally optimistic that we can work together as a country to preserve our national parks for future generations. Standing at the base of a towering Giant Sequoia, I cannot help but feel amazed and inspired by a living being that can survive (and thrive) for hundreds or thousands of years – continuing to grow even when confronted by powerful wildfires, draughts, and storms. There is perhaps no better example of climate resiliency than this enormous yet humble tree.

We as humans have a responsibility to learn from our natural environments, and plan for a resilient future. Across the Bay Area region, Greenbelt Alliance is advocating for land use policies that balance smart growth development with the necessary protection of natural lands – not just the world-renowned national parks – but also the local farmlands, wetlands, forests, grasslands, and the communities who depend on these lands.

I hope you’ll have the chance to celebrate National Park Week. You might consider taking a short day-trip up north to Point Reyes or down south to Pinnacles (two of my favorites!). I invite you to think of these visits as opportunities to not only explore nature, but also to learn how you can help ensure these parks will be here for many more years.

Chance Kawar is the Senior Manager of Operations, People, and Finance at Greenbelt Alliance.

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