Zinke must protect children’s access to parks and public lands
The tiny humans at my house are settling into an easy summer rhythm. I call them my “ladies of leisure,” whose days generally revolve around bike rides, hikes, swimming, creek stomping, wildflower ikebana, library visits, and searching out the perfect camp site complete with appropriate trees for hammocks.
The days are long, the living’s easy, and my ladies of leisure are filling their months under the Big Sky with one outdoor adventure after another. Montana kids are lucky that way.
You’ve heard all of this before, that our public lands are crucial to our outdoor heritage, our economy, our way of life. You’ve also heard the statistics that our outdoor economy accounts for over 64,000 jobs and $5.8 billion in consumer spending. However perhaps what you haven’t heard (or admitted) is that working parents trying to survive summer vacation would go mad without public pools, fishing access sites, trails, campgrounds, national parks, national monuments and playgrounds.
Recently, Montana’s own Sec. Ryan Zinke supported the president’s proposed budget for the Department of the Interior (DOI), the branch of government tasked with managing important places and programs that allow Montana families to experience the great outdoors. The proposed budget would drastically slash the DOI’s budget by $600 million dollars by gutting important recreation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the National Park Service.
In national parks alone that would mean 1,242 Americans would lose their jobs. That reduction would mean that campgrounds we use every summer could close, hours of operation would shrink, trails we hike with our kids would not be maintained, and natural resources (the core reason to visit national parks) would go unpreserved.
What does that mean for Montanans, where three million people visited Glacier National Park and over four million people visited Yellowstone National Park in 2016? Our backyards would diminish in value. If our campgrounds are overrun with litter and we slash the very programs that keep our fishing access sites and our public lands trails open, we will lose jobs and visitation through our recreation economy, but also some of the beauty of our great state.
We will lose our children’s summers, weekends, and holidays. We will lose their memories.
Public lands and waters across America belong to all of us, not just a select few. As Sec. Zinke stated himself, “Ultimately, the government works for us. I work for you.”
Parents across Montana are urging Sec. Zinke to remember that simple fact: You work for us. We are putting our children’s memories in your hands. Stand up and fight for an appropriate budget to manage our public lands, national parks, and recreation programs. Follow through on your promise to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Remember your roots under the big sky.