May 10th, 2013 by

One of the nation’s best-loved national parks celebrates its birthday tomorrow. Glacier National Park was signed into existence on May 11, 1910. Since then, its blue and green vistas have been inspiring visitors every summer.

Glacier National Park

Grinnell Glacier and Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park. Credit: tbone_sandwich/Flickr

American Forests was instrumental in helping to establish the National Park System, and we still support it today. We want future generations to have the same opportunities to experience these iconic landscapes that generations of Americans have enjoyed for years. That’s why we are working to protect high-elevation ecosystems in western states like Wyoming and Montana — Glacier’s home —from several threats affecting the keystone species whitebark pine. And it’s why we support the president’s total budget request of $3.1 billion for the National Park System. Today’s birthday park has already made sacrifices due to lack of proper funding courtesy of the sequester, including personnel cuts and a late opening that affects revenue.

But even with proper funding, our wish that future generations will continue to enjoy our country’s beauty spots like Glacier National Park is not a simple one. A large part of Glacier’s beauty and appeal lie in its remoteness. Pristine and quiet, isolated from the hectic day-to-day grind, its azure glacial lakes and rugged peaks call to adventurous spirits. But the same remoteness that makes Glacier so irresistible also makes it hard for many to visit.

Luckily, the National Park System is not the only program under the purview of the National Park Service. Knowing that not everyone will be able to make it to parks like Glacier is part of why we’re hoping to see the reestablishment of the Urban Parks and Recreation program. This program provides grants to communities to improve outdoor recreational opportunities and bring citizens — including those who may not be able to get out to our protected wildernesses — closer to nature. This isn’t just about having a good time outdoors. Though recreation is important, research shows time in nature has far-reaching impacts on mental and physical health, not to mention the economic benefits of the urban forest. That’s why we support the president’s request of $10 million for Urban Parks and Recreation.

Funding to help ensure that the greatest number of people have access to outdoor spaces: Wouldn’t that be a perfect birthday present for our country’s 10th national park?