If you’ve been in the U.S. for more than a few days, chances are you’ve enjoyed spending time in some type of public land — a beach, campground, lake, monument, wildlife refuge, forest, grassland, marine sanctuary or any local, state or national park. It would be almost impossible not to step foot in public land, given that 30 percent of America’s land is public land.
Here’s the “Catch 22” — we get to enjoy these public lands — but our public lands don’t always enjoy us when they are overused, littered, neglected or impacted by other issues such as invasive species.
Now’s your chance to get outside on a beautiful September day – this Saturday, September 30th — and help them out a little! Join the more than 236,000 volunteers who come out each year onNational Public Lands Day to help improve our public lands.
What Is National Public Lands Day?
Founded in 1994 by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), it is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort to support public lands. National Public Land Day is always held on the last Saturday in September, but many events and activities take place in the days and weeks before and after the official public land day.
More than 236,000 volunteers across 2,600 sites made $22M in public land improvements in 2016 alone! Volunteers:
- Planted 85,000 plants
- Removed 75 TONS of trash
- Built 1,200 miles of trails
- Removed 30,000 pounds of invasive species vegetation
Visit a Public Land for Free
A lesser known objective of National Public Lands Day is to encourage us to get out and connect with our natural world, learn about its benefits and simply experience our public lands. It’s a day when we can pause from our busy lives and appreciate the beauty and necessity of these amazing public spaces.
Most federally managed lands, as well as many state and local lands, waive their admission fee on National Public Lands Day. In addition, volunteers who participate in a National Public Lands Day event are given a voucher, good for one year, that may be used for a one-day entrance into any public land that participates in the voucher program.
What Kind of Work Do Volunteers Do on National Public Lands Day?
Activities vary widely depending on the location but can include removing trash and invasive plants, planting trees and native vegetation, repairing or restoring structures, monitoring endangered species, building trails, improving wildlife habitats and rehabilitating playgrounds. Volunteers get a chance to get outside and improve the recreational lands that make their communities great!
Who Participates in National Public Lands Day?
Many volunteers participate as a community, youth, school or national group such as Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Outdoor Nation, Student Conservation Association or the Sierra Club. However, anyone can participate, even if you’re not affiliated with a group!
How Can I Get Involved?
It’s easy to find an event in your area since National Public Lands Day events occur in local, state and national parks, and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Defense, Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Why not make it a fun and fulfilling event: gather your family, grab your friends or organize your colleagues and find an event in your area and make a difference — or simply celebrate!
National Parks Participating in National Public Lands Day Include:
- Greenbelt Park, Maryland
- Valley Forge National Historic Park, Pennsylvania
- Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona
- Arches National Park, Utah
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
- Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
- Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, North Carolina
- Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
- Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota
- Pinnacles National Park, California
- New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Louisiana
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
- Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Pennsylvania
- Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma
- Richmond National Battlefield Park, Virginia
- Stones River National Battlefield, Tennessee
- Schlitz Audubon Cleaver Property, Wisconsin
To find out more about these events and more, check out https://www.volunteer.gov/.
Search for “National Public Lands Day” in the keyword field under “Find a Volunteer Opportunity.” You can filter by city and state to narrow results. Don’t Live Near One of These Parks? No Problem!
NEEF has a complete list of events on their website:https://www.neefusa.org/public-lands-day.
The fastest way to find events near you is to visit https://www.neefusa.org/npld/volunteers and click on your state. On the next page, enter your zip code and then select how many miles you’re willing to travel. You can also filter by the federal agency who is partnering with NEEF in the Advanced Search section.
What Are Some Examples of Past National Public Land Day Successes?
59,000 Pounds of Trash!
In 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), one of National Public Land Day’s largest providers of sites and volunteers, coordinated 6,000+ volunteers at 72 USACE lakes. The volunteers removed:
500 Tons of Trash!
- 59,000 pounds of trash
- Cleaned 285 miles of shoreline
- Maintained 105 miles of trails
- Planted approximately 400 trees, shrubs and native plants on USACE-managed lands
In 2014, about 175,000 volunteers worked at 2,000+ sites in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico on National Public Lands Day. Here’s roughly what they did:
- Removed 500 tons of trash
- Planted 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants
- Collected 23,000 pounds of invasive plants
- Contributed $18M in volunteer services (what it would have cost taxpayers to pay people to do this beneficial work)
Who Is the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)?
Congress chartered NEEF in 1990 to advance environmental literacy nationwide and to facilitate public-private partnerships in support of environmental education as part of the National Environmental Education Act. NEEF’s purpose is to “secure a safer and healthier world for ourselves, our children and for generations to come.” Its vision is that “by 2022, 300 million Americans will actively use environmental knowledge to ensure the wellbeing of the earth and its people.”
NEEF launched the first National Public Lands Day with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers in 1994. By 2010, more than 170,000 volunteers at more than 2,000 sites were participating! Toyota has been sponsoring the event since 1999 and encourages its employees to participate in a National Public Lands event.
NEEF also receives support from federal, state, local and national organizations such as Bureau of Land Management, Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Where will you be this Saturday? Hopefully outside improving or simply appreciating one of our public lands! Visit the official National Public Lands Day website to learn more.
Check out what else we’re talking about here at Mountain House on our blog: https://mountainhouse.com/blog/