By Jarvis, T. Destry
Parks & Recreation , Vol. 36, No. 12
Conservation of the diverse natural and cultural resources of our Nation is one of NRPA's core values and programmatic goals. However, unlike some organizations that appear to pursue conservation objectives from the point of view of preservation for preservation's sake alone, NRPA always puts people into the equation. Like the language of the 1916 National Park Service Organic Act, the conservation of places of special value across America is for enjoyment, in a manner that will leave the resources unimpaired to be sure, but for various types and levels of use that will bring enjoyment to people. Public use is of equal importance for all public agencies that manage public lands and recreation facilities and programs, even though the particular uses that they provide will vary widely. The most important distinction among the various agencies is that not every type or level of recreational use is appropriate on every parcel of land -- there is a spectrum of recreation opportunity across the full range of federal, state, and local public lands. There is a place for every legal recreation activity, just not every activity in every place.
As we know from the role played by parks and recreation in the two World Wars of the 20th century, and as we have seen again and again since the September 11 terrorists attacks in New York and Washington, at times of great stress and universal crisis, Americans flock to their public parks in huge numbers, especially close to home or when they can be reached as a day trip. Public parks and other open spaces have proven time and time again to be the place of choice for Americans who need the peaceful, compassionate socialization offered by parks, need the stress relief provided by active recreation, and who also need the opportunity for passive contemplation of nature, scenery, or other aspects of our cultural heritage.
Numerous articles in magazines and newspapers have cited the chilling effect that the terrorist attacks have had on domestic policy and legislation, as well as on federal, state, and local funding for things not directly related to eliminating the terrorist threat and preventing further attacks at home. Most purely conservation or environmental bills pending in Congress have indefinitely stalled.
However, this may be among the best of times to emphasize the essential role that public lands play in the quality of life enjoyed in America. …