President Obama celebrated Father’s Day weekend by taking a family vacation to two breathtaking national parks, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and Yosemite National Park in California. His choice for a quick vacation should come as no surprise as President Obama has truly solidified his place as one of America’s most consequential conservation presidents. During his tenure he has protected over 265 million acres or land and water – more than any other president, launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative, created National Park Week, and visited over 30 national parks.
President Obama artfully uses each visit to call national attention to our nation’s natural heritage. During this trip, against the breathtaking backdrop of Yosemite Falls, he spoke about nature’s transformative and healing powers and voiced his desire that every child will have a chance to witness nature as it should be in our national parks. While they could not all join him on his trip, other congressional champions for parks and public lands have taken the opportunity to voice their support of America’s majestic public lands.
Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), champion of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, was one of the few lucky enough to be able to drop in on the president during his stopover in New Mexico. While there, Senator Heinrich took a moment to stir up excitement for the national parks as we celebrate their centennial anniversary this year. Considering the current discussions in Congress on appropriations for the Department of the Interior, Senator Heinrich also made a quick and timely plug for increased funding for park maintenance so that everyone can enjoy clean and functional facilities during their national park visits.
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) echoed Senator Heinrich’s sentiments and showed his support for President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative as well as the Find Your Park media campaign in a series of supportive tweets throughout the weekend.
In California, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) welcomed the First Family to Yosemite National Park.
Back on the East Coast, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) encouraged city residents to follow President Obama’s lead and find their parks.
Many other leaders on parks and public lands in Congress echoed their support, including:
And our national parks should be valued for so much more than their beauty and their physical and emotional impacts on our bodies and minds. In many ways, they are our last line of defense against the threat of climate change.
Climate change threatens the very characteristics that make our national parks so unique. If temperatures keep rising, Montana’s Glacier National Park will soon be without glaciers and California’s Joshua Tree National Park could lose most of the parks iconic trees by the end of the century. But preserving our wild open spaces helps mitigate the impacts of climate change and helps hold harmful carbon pollution in vegetation and soil.
President Obama knows just how critical the function of intact, productive, and protected public lands is and we hope he continue to cement his conservation legacy by protecting more at risk places in his final months. There are public lands across the country that are already experiencing extreme pressures from climate change, looting, and harmful extractive development. If we fail to protect these lands, they will be at risk to lose everything that makes them mean so much to the American public. As we continue to celebrate the national park centennial, we hope more and more Americans will go find their park and share in Obama’s love and defense of our natural heritage.