Why National Parks Are Important


Shenandoah National Park

Julia Gentili, Staff Writer

National Parks are located all across America. They are preserved spaces of forest and land that is a habitat to many species. They keep our ecosystem thriving and many animals out of extinction. From Acadia in Maine, to Yosemite in California over 84.9 million acres in 58 parks are preserved. But that’s only 3.6% of the United States land and the numbers are shrinking along with the health of the parks. These parks are an important part of our country and the ecosystem of the world.  

National parks have existed for over 140 years. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed an act that established Yellowstone as the nation’s first national park. Then in 1916 the Organic Act created the National Park Service. The Organic Act said the purpose of the National Parks Service is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life there in and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” There is no hunting, fishing, livestock grazing or logging allowed on National Park land.

But National Parks are not just for citizens to enjoy the wonders of nature, they are a crucial part of science research in the ecosystem. National Parks provide opportunities to study the wildlife because they are full of biodiversity. For example, a scientist in 1914 named Joseph Grinnell made a discovery in Yosemite National Park. He documented the distribution of species and saw it related to the habitat. This created the ecological niche theory which is the importance of each organism and its role in the health of the ecosystem. The theory was groundbreaking as before scientists did not realize how losing one species could drastically affect the entire ecosystem. The parks are also responsible for the findings of carbon-14 dating and ecological succession.

National Parks are also important for human health. They create a nice little get away for many people. Hiking, camping and escaping from everyday life can be very therapeutic. Often National Parks have no cell phone service, causing people to put down their phone and enjoy the outdoors. There are many activities including skiing, hiking, swimming, biking and so much more for visitors to do. The parks are also full of learning opportunities through visitor centers and classroom services. National Parks also protect history in our country by preserving old parts of nature and other historical sites.

National Parks are in danger due to climate change. Although they are great to document climate change, they are being affected by it. Naturally, temperatures are getting a bit warm for the National Parks. Parks like the Mojave National Preserve and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area haven’t been getting enough rain and with the warm temperatures it has been dry all season long. The glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana have been melting and the park may only be recognizable by its name in the year 2030. Also in some parks, trees have been dying because of climate change. The drought doesn’t allow enough water for nutrition and wildfires are more likely to spread.

Sadly, funds have been considered to be cut for National Parks. Trump has proposed to cut fundings for the parks by 7% as part of hs $2.7 billion budget for 2019. This would result in  2,000 rangers losing their jobs and education programs being cut. Only 117 out of 417 national sites collect fees. This makes the funding already low.

The government shutdown has also affected the National Parks negatively. National Parks are government run and since government 21,000 workers aren’t working due to the shutdown the parks are suffering. Although some workers are working without pay, most parks are suffering with sanitation issues. Some parks are still opened for visitors, but with no staff, visitors haven’t been respecting the rules of the land. Joshua Tree National Park in California was victim of people cutting down old historical trees to create new roads to visit an off road area usually accessed by hiking. Some parks are closed completely to reduce the risks of these situation and some parks just have certain parts closed. During this time people are unable to properly enjoy the nature and beauty the parks have to offer. On the National Parks Service website, some links and pages are not working due to the government shutdown.

It’s extremely important that we protect our National Parks and fund them properly. They are a fragile and important aspect to our country. Not only do they help create biodiversity and habitats for many species, they hold history and happiness for the country. If the parks were suddenly unprotected, the health of the ecosystem would rapidly decline and species would go extinct. And if one species goes extinct, a chain effect will kick in and more species will die. If you ever find yourself in a park, have fun doing all the activities, please be respectful to the land. You can help by leaving the area how you found it, or cleaner and donating money to corporations and nonprofits that support them. National Parks should last forever to keep the ecosystem alive and thriving and preserved for future generations.

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park