Welcome to Day #216 of our "365 Parks in 365 Days" adventure.
With South Florida temperatures falling into a pleasant low 70s, I am keenly aware that the year is almost finished. Mentally, I'm still around January 2001, so the swift passage of this year hardly disturbs me. But because of this series, I will be able to go back and see what I was focusing on every weekday this year. I guess that's what happens when you're having fun.
A moose standing on the trail between her and luscious huckleberries was Dr. Gillian Bowser's introduction to the national parks, and she made ecology and stewardship her lifelong career. National Geographic Photo.
This headline and video, Sisters on the Fly: Women celebrating the great outdoors together posted on my Facebook Page makes me so happy that I already feel fulfilled for the day though it' s only 8 a.m.made me see myself outdoors some of my best friends such as Rue, Iantha, Nina, Gillian, Emilyn and my three Carolyns - Finney, Hartfield and Richardson Sutton. The feeling that went through me at that moment was as exquisite as the feeling I get from reconnecting with my five closest Jamaican girlfriends - we've been friends for 50 years.
Last week we were able to spend time at the NPCA Green Carpet Gala in Central Park with one of those friends and her family, including her husband and daughter, a young PhD who lives in New York. Later, we went to visit them at home, and were immersed in Jamaican comfort foods. It was wonderful to be able to connect my niece and her friend to the staff at NPCA's Northeast Regional Office in New York City, including young people who will nurture her relationship to the parks as she connects them to her community. A win-win all around.
Our eternally-youthful friend Dr. Bowser enjoying one of her favorite activities - hiking in the great outdoors.
Simultaneously, we barely missed connecting with our friend, Colorado State University Professor Gillian Bowser who flew in to visit family. The next best thing was this story I found in our newsletter Pickup & GO! that Dr. Bowser wrote for us In the fall of 2000. Using her introduction to the national parks as a young girl, she reflected on her 20-year history with the park system, lessons learned and lessons that remain to be learned.
I am so happy to be able to share excerpts of this story with you as it gives us an exquisite backdrop from which to assess how far the park system has come in the intervening 13 years. Today, Dr. Bowser is an international award winning ecologist, a member of the Global Women Scholars Network and a leader in cultivating young scientists/stewards for the public lands system across the country.
Earlier this year Dr. Bowser sent me this image of her young science students enjoying themselves in the great outdoors while training to become stewards of our public lands.
Lead on, Dr. Bowser!
"Flat hats and dreadlocks: Being black in the National Park Service
"I still remember the moose. It was between me and some huckleberries that were dangling from laden branches. The smell of those huckleberries in the warm summer sun was wafting down the trail, curling around the moose, and tickling my nose. I remember the moose was fairly unimpressed by the huckleberries or my desires and stood stoically in the absolute center of the trail.
Our first National Wildlife Refuge, Pelican Island in Florida, was created by President Theodore Roosevelt, March 14, 1903 "as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds." It is part of the extensive network operated of the National Refuge System managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
"The scene has been frozen in my mind for more than 35 years. The stage was Grand Teton National Park, the scene was a hiking trail up to Bradley Lake, a place we wanted to go because it bore my grandmother's name. My sister and I were merely youngsters, stout enough to complete the 6-mile roundtrip, but still young enough to be brought to tears when the promised huckleberries were denied.
"Now, as s 20-year veteran of the National Park Service, I often look back at the memories of that moose and wonder why my parents felt so compelled to bring us from Brooklyn, NY, to the wilds of Wyoming in the back of a battered car.
"The National Park Service is entering the new millennium with rapidly increasing visitation, outside pressures of development, pollutants, mining rights, water rights and a deteriorating infrastructure. The campgrounds in the major parks are full. The park trails are crowded. One group of visitor complains that we are loving our parks to death, another that we are neglecting them Yet, in all this noise and uproar about the health and well-being of the parks, I turn a corner and still see that moose of 35 years ago. And see that there are no other little girls that look like me on that trail, wishing for that moose to move so she could have her huckleberries. Why? . . ."
I hope the federal government shutdown ends soon so that we can enjoy the spectacular fall colors on scenic drives such as this one at the Ouachita National Forest, Hot springs, AR USDA Forest Service Photo
Dr. Bowser's enthralling story continues to give us insight into the Park Service as she was experiencing it in Year 2000, and made specific suggestions for changes that need to be made. I plan to share those over the course of the week, including her concluding question:
"How so we, the people of color, embrace the parks? We need to create a civic body that believes that the preservation of a national park is tied to the preservation of ourselves, our cultural heritage and our pride. To set things right, according to Confucius, one must first right oneself. We must convince the community centers to visit the parks, the parks to visit the centers as our educational and economic system should lead toward the intense land ethic described by Aldo Leopold who once said, 'That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.'" Wow!
Today, October 15, 2013, as our government continues to lead our country to the brink of ruin, I am reminded that our national treasures in our National Park, Forest and Wildlife Refuge systems are in our charge. As we quote President Roosevelt stated in the Epilogue of "Our True Nature,"
"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."
Congressman Raul Grijalva is chanelling our greatest conservation president Teddy Roosevelt (A REPUBLICAN!) and asking us to take responsibility for the protection of our great-grand-children's public lands.
Are we worthy, when Congressman Raul Grijalva, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, points out that during the government shutdown, the public that owns our parks and pay for them with our tax dollars is forbidden to go on park grounds, while commercial entities continue exploiting them for resources, unimpeded by any restrictions. Americans cited for hiking on federal lands, but drillers can keep on drilling. Congressman Grijalva has started a petition (I can't recall this happened in the federal government before - as Ranger Soskin asked yesterday, 'where does the power lie now?') to Secretary Jewell. I signed it, and I encourage you to do so as well.
Thank you Dr. Bowser! Thank you, Rep. Grijalva! And thank you to everyone who cares and expends effort to protect our natural treasures and our people form the greed and rapacity of a 'powerful' few.