Celebrating Our Planet- National Public Lands Day

Celebrating Our Planet- National Public Lands Day

Shyler Yost

I am passionate about the environment, which means that this past month brought an exciting day for me. September 24th was National Public Lands Day- a day created to celebrate the connection between people and the environment and to honor public lands. National Public Lands Day falls on the fourth Saturday in September, and it is traditionally
the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort.

National Public Lands Day is annually organized and led by the National Environmental Education Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service. Every fourth Saturday of September, volunteers gather to restore and preserve natural areas near them- whether they are National Parks or local natural areas.

I love spending time in the natural world and immersing myself in it. I have been working on adding to my list of visited National Parks since 2018, which was when I visited my first Park and fell in love with the outdoors. My top two Parks that I’ve visited include Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Each Park is a natural and historic gem, with various natural features ranging from frigid mountains to vibrant coral reefs.

The more I began to further my curiosity surrounding the environment, the more aware I became of the threats that our planet faces. Issues such as increasing global carbon emissions due to fossil fuels and a rise in greenhouse gas emissions pose dangers to our fragile planet, and these issues call for environmental action. While there is a single day designated for celebrating public lands, the time is always right for working to make our planet a prosperous, thriving place. Contributing to the improvement of the environment became one of my goals.

I started volunteering with the McHenry County Conservation District, or MCCD, in local natural areas. There aren’t any National Parks very close to me, but I knew I wanted to contribute to the well-being of the environment. Local lands deserve love as well!

One of my favorite volunteer experiences with the MCCD was Restoration Day at Exner Marsh, a local natural area near me. Volunteers worked to remove invasive plants such as honeysuckle and buckthorn. The group that I volunteered with accomplished a great deal of work despite being a small group. We used saws and loppers to clear out the invasive species so they did not overpopulate the native species. At the end of our shift, there was a massive pile of invasive species that had been removed from the environment. Even a small group can make great accomplishments to help the environment, and volunteering on a local scale can help the environment flourish.

Visiting National Parks with your family can increase your knowledge of natural areas and their significance as well. My family visits National and State Parks on spring break, and we’ve seen some amazing sights. We’ve seen Black Bear cubs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we experienced a traffic delay when a herd of bison crossed the road we drove on in Custer State Park. I’ve read and heard about the history of the
Parks with each that I have visited. In Badlands National Park in South Dakota, I hiked a fossil trail and discovered information about the fossils discovered in the rock. In Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota, our tour group experienced total darkness to understand how it felt when Frank and Albert Michaud first descended into the cave in
1900. Each part of our environment has something unique to offer.

While hiking and trekking trails are not for everyone, the natural world offers many chances to explore in a variety of ways. The environment allows for discoveries to be made historically, scientifically, and even emotionally as spending time in nature has been proven to reduce stress and improve one’s mood. And while the environment here may not be as breathtaking as it is in other regions of the nation, it still holds beauty and wonder. There may be one day designated to show your love of public lands each day- but there is always room for more appreciation!



Works Cited:

“Sources Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions | US EPA”. US EPA, 2022, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions#:~:text=Human%20activities%20are%20responsible%20for,over%20the%20last%20150%20years.&text=The%20largest%20source%20of%20greenhouse,electricity%2C%20heat%2C%20and%20transportation.“When You’Re Stressed, Go Outside”. Intermountainhealthcare.Org, 2022, https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/covid-19/2020/04/when-youre-stressed-go-outside/.
“History & Culture – Jewel Cave National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)”. Nps.Gov, 2022, https://www.nps.gov/jeca/learn/historyculture/index.htm.
“National Public Lands Day – NPS Commemorations And Celebrations (U.S. National Park Service)”. Nps.Gov, 2022, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/public-lands-day.htm.