Bill Nye and Michelle Obama Encourage Millennials to Get Out and Explore Our Parks
The National Park Service (NPS) is turning 100 years old in 2016 and to celebrate it announced this week the launch of Find Your Park, an awareness campaign celebrating the milestone. The initiative was launched in partnership with the National Park Foundation, and has enlisted First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush and Bill Nye to help promote the celebration. The goal is to encourage people, especially young people, to connect with their favorite parks and foster appreciation for our public lands.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
"The campaign to connect national parks with the next generation comes at a critical time," says NPS. According to a study conducted by Hall & Partners on behalf of the National Park Foundation, while approximately 80 percent of Americans have heard of the National Park Service, only 38 percent are at all familiar with the organization and all that they do. At a time when the term "climate change" can be banned and presidential candidates are calling environmentalists "flat-earthers," it's more important than ever that people foster a connection to nature and a desire to preserve it.
When we think about our national parks, the first that come to mind are probably the vast, isolated parks in the western U.S. like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Denali. But there are 407 national parks and even more state and local parks, so the idea is to show people that they probably aren't very far from a park.
To do this, Bill Nye commandeers a cab in New York City and takes two unsuspecting passengers to several parks right in the city. Watch to see where he takes them (hint: one of them is an American icon):
Bill Nye wants to inspire youth to get outside and explore the natural world. Our parks are "precious, they're priceless and they need to be preserved," Nye told Huffington Post. He believes that if people, especially young people, develop a deeper appreciation of nature, they will feel compelled to act on climate change. You can't miss the signs when you visit a national park. "Climate change is manifesting itself everywhere," Nye said."Glacier National Park is becoming 'Mudslide National Park' because of climate change."
"We have this technologically advanced society that depends on science for everything," said Nye. "And yet we have an ironic and really struggling situation where there's this group of people that doesn't accept science. It's probably the biggest problem that humankind has ever faced."
Michelle Obama also has a personal interest in getting people to protect our national parks: she lives in one. That's right, the White House is part of the National Park System. She also has a family connection to one of the newest national parks, Pullman National Monument in Chicago. See why Michelle Obama thinks it's so important to "find your park:"
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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