National Parks: Our Nation's Treasure
by Pavana Attonito, grade 6
Filtered sunlight seeps in through a thick canopy of spruce trees and rests its sleepy fingers on carpets of plush moss and ferns. Waves crash against the rocks, spraying foam into the faces of playful otters resurfacing with a shiny fish in their paws, and sea stars and anemones flourish in tide pools. Waterfalls roar as they tumble down from majestic heights, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. These magical treasures and more can be found in our country’s national parks. National parks are pieces of land chosen for their natural, historic and cultural values. They are protected by the federal government for the preservation of wildlife and public enjoyment, and are an important part of our country’s history and future.
One reason why national parks are so important is because they preserve and protect wildlife and their habitats. National parks are full of diverse species, many of which can only be found in these parks, such as the Olympic Marmot, an adorable, fluffy rodent, and the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, a rare tree that can be more than 4,000 years old. Additionally, more than 600 endangered species can be found in national parks. The federal protections given to national parks help ensure that their habitats are protected and that these species do not become extinct.
National parks are also important because they provide accessible, open spaces for the enjoyment of people from all walks of life. When people visit the parks, they can learn so much about the surrounding wildlife and trees. As the oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle once said, “With knowing comes caring.” If we learn more about something, then we can understand and better care for it. In turn, people who otherwise might not care may want to protect our environment.
The protections given to national parks can also help fight against the impacts of climate change. Higher ocean levels can flood parks with seawater, pushing out animals who cannot survive salt water, particularly in places like the Everglades, Olympic National Park and Dry Tortugas. Some parks may face stronger storms and flooding, and others may face frequent droughts and wildfires. Due to warming temperatures, snow and ice are melting at a faster rate and spring flood cycles are changing. Trees are homes for many animals, but deforestation can displace these animals. Without the protections of national parks, the effects of climate change on these areas would be much worse.
National parks are important because they are home to so many plants and animals that rely on their protected environments. No matter what you look like or what you believe, visiting our country’s national parks can bring us together. When we visit national parks, we can truly appreciate the natural beauty that Earth provides, and when learning about the remarkable wonders, we will care about our planet and its fragile friends. Climate change may try to tear our planet apart, but with national parks, we have hope to sustain the incredible species on our planet for future generations.
National Park Service. “NPS.gov Homepage (U.S. National Park Service).” Nps.gov, 2017, www.nps.gov/index.htm.