Celebrating Public Lands Month: Preserving Scenic Beauty for Generations to Come
September 14, 2023
Image credit: Colleen Eliason

September is a month of transition, where the warm embrace of summer starts to give way to the cool, crisp days of autumn. It’s also a time when we celebrate our country’s public lands. Designated as Public Lands Month, September offers us an opportunity to reflect on the breathtaking natural landscapes that have been conserved for the benefit of all Americans.

The Majesty and Importance of Public Lands

Mother Nature has bestowed upon our nation an astounding array of public lands, each boasting unique and awe-inspiring landscapes. From the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the sprawling deserts of the Southwest, and from the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest to the pristine beaches of the Gulf Coast, our public lands offer a cornucopia of scenic beauty.

These lands aren’t just awe-inspiring because of their beauty; they are also critical to our physical and mental well-being. Outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and birdwatching provide opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Moreover, they allow us to connect with nature in ways that are increasingly important in our fast-paced, technology-driven lives.

Yosemite National Park | Image credit: David Huff

According to recent studies, outdoor time in the United States has seen a historical decline in recent decades, affecting both children and adults. While the rise of technology and sedentary indoor activities has likely played a role in this decline, the amount of time spent outdoors is heavily influenced by access to outdoor spaces. For these reasons, America’s public lands become even more important.

Scenic Conservation: A Stewardship Imperative

The scenic beauty of our public lands isn’t just a happy accident; it’s the result of decades of careful stewardship and conservation efforts. Agencies like the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and others work tirelessly to protect these landscapes from development and degradation. These efforts ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the same breathtaking vistas that we do today.

One of the key aspects of scenic conservation is the preservation of natural and cultural landscapes. This involves protecting not only the physical beauty of the land but also its historical and cultural significance. By safeguarding places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Great Smoky Mountains, we are not just protecting natural wonders but also the stories and heritage that make these places so special.

Economic Benefits of Scenic Conservation

Scenic conservation isn’t just about preserving beauty for its own sake; it also has tangible economic benefits. Tourism is a significant driver of revenue in many rural areas surrounding public lands. Visitors flock to these areas to experience the stunning vistas, engage in outdoor activities, and immerse themselves in the natural world.

In 2022, visitor spending near national parks reached a record-breaking $50.3 billion, benefiting the U.S. economy and supporting 378,400 jobs, as reported by the Department of the Interior. Secretary Deb Haaland emphasized the vital role of outdoor recreation in both personal well-being and economic prosperity, citing the positive impact of park visits on local communities. The National Park Service’s report, “2022 National Park Visitor Spending Effects,” revealed that 312 million visitors spent $23.9 billion within 60 miles of national parks, with 314,600 jobs located in park gateway communities.

Saguaro National Park | Image credit: Sara Halbert

This demonstrates the significant economic contribution of national parks and public lands, with every $1 investment yielding over $10 in economic growth. Additionally, public lands support a wide range of outdoor recreation industries, including hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping. These activities create jobs and stimulate local economies, contributing to the well-being of communities near these lands.

Furthermore, public lands can play a pivotal role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Their vast expanses of untouched wilderness act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, thereby helping to combat global warming.

Looking Forward: Preserving Scenic Beauty

As we celebrate Public Lands Month, it’s crucial to recognize that our responsibility to protect and conserve these lands is ongoing. The challenges of the 21st century, including climate change, increased visitation, and budget constraints, require innovative and sustained efforts in scenic conservation.

One way individuals can contribute to this cause is by supporting conservation organizations, volunteering their time, and practicing responsible outdoor recreation. These actions can help ensure that our public lands remain a source of inspiration, recreation, and economic prosperity for generations to come.

Image credit: Florida Guidebook, Unsplash

Public Lands Month is an opportunity to celebrate the scenic beauty that graces our nation’s public lands, and Scenic America is dedicated to preserving these lands for the benefit of future generations. Scenic conservation is not just about preserving pretty landscapes; it’s about safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage that makes our country unique. As we reflect on the majesty of these lands during Public Lands Month, let us remember that it is our duty to protect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy, ensuring that the scenic beauty of America endures through the ages.

Help support Scenic America’s efforts to preserve, protect, and promote our nation’s public lands by making a donation today!