There is a moment when in the wilderness where everything is quiet except for the sounds of nature. The warm breeze blows through the tree, birds chirp cheerfully, and wildlife rustles through the bushes. These sounds are peaceful, a testament to the power and beauty in nature. There is a quietness that lets the mind relax, and a feeling of true serenity. Most Coloradans would agree that this is a feeling worth protecting, something that can only be found in the outdoors.
With a changing climate and seemingly diminishing natural resources, preserving the environment has become more important than ever before. Colorado’s natural beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year, in awe of the fields of wildflowers with snowcapped mountains in the backdrop on brilliantly sunny days. That snow is vital to the state, being the source of water and giving life to the forestry. With high wildfire and pine beetle rates, preserving mountain ecosystems has become essential, especially to keep up with Colorado’s winter sport industry.
The National Park Service (NPS) is dedicated to protecting Colorado’s natural landscapes, and have worked diligently to preserve natural and historic properties. April 15-23 has been dedicated National Parks Week, and on the two weekends entrance to all National Parks will be free. The NPS is trying to promote open spaces and preserving natural environments. Colorado’s seven national parks and monuments will be participating: Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
It is the goal of the NPS to preserve natural and cultural resources and values by promoting resource conservation education and inspiration for future generations. History Colorado will be working to promote these values with their Colorado’s National Parks Day. On April 12th, middle and high school students will take the day to learn about their stewardship and responsibility towards national parks. Connecting the museum exhibits with national parks, students will discover historic preservation and resource conservation. Educating children on environmentalism is a key step in maintaining natural environments, so the students also learn about careers associated with the NPS.
Educating future generations about environmentalism is just a step in ensuring the protection of our cultural heritage and natural sites. Colorado has a rich and diverse heritage that intertwines with its beautiful landscape. To some, national parks are a part of their cultural history. Groups like the National Parks Service, Colorado State Forest Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency have dedicated their time and energy in protecting it. But it is more than their job to uphold the sanctity of nature, it is also up to us.
As visitors of national parks, we bear the responsibility of maintaining and protecting them. They can be the most beautiful places on Earth, and can be protected by adopting a few sustainable practices. It is important to leave no trace when in the wilderness, never disturbing plants or animals, planning ahead to minimize waste, and only hiking and camping in appropriate areas. Natural beauty will survive if it stays that way, natural. It is important to teach kids and others why parks are important, taking time to appreciate the value of nature while minimizing impacts on natural spaces.
Beyond national park etiquette, we bear a responsibility to protect all of our natural environments. Parks are protected areas, but Colorado has far more areas of open space that need saving. Water conservation is a key component in environmentalism, with thousands of gallons being used everyday. The Ancestral Pueblo of Mesa Verde only used two and a half gallons per person per day! By taking shorter showers, turning off your thermostat, recycling, and biking or walking to work you can greatly lower your carbon footprint. Learning and practicing resource conservation can ensure that these majestic places are protected for the future.
National Parks give us that feeling of serenity, of connecting with the world around us. They allow us to feel like we are part of something bigger, that we are connected to the past and part of the future. It is our responsibility to protect those parks, remembering where we came from and where we want to go. The National Park Service has taken a great start, working with communities and groups to understand and educate on the intricacies of nature, and protecting our valued historic and open spaces. But it comes down to each individual, respecting those places and practicing resource conservation.