Tag Archives: NPS

National park rogues, not new, but necessary

A century ago Congress created the National Park Service (NPS) “to conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein…” Back then there were 35 national parks and monuments, now there are over 400. These include, of course, Yellowstone and Yosemite, the so-called “natural” parks where the NPS is sworn to safeguard biodiversity, wild rivers, and carbon sinks (a.k.a. forests). They are America’s environmental legacy.

The NPS also has under its wing other types of parks including Civil War battlefields, cliff dwellings, Japanese internment camps, presidential hideaways, Spanish missions, and towering monuments. These parks tell the story of America.

All together they are for gawking, for sure, at glaciers, bears and Half Dome but they are also for learning about, among other things, glaciation, immigration, civil rights, war and, yes, climate change. Parks are meant to instill a sense of both time and timelessness, and a respect for places and things which have existed long before we had bones, and will exist long after we are dust.

But these dear places are not static, secured beneath bubbles, untouchable. Like it or not, from redwoods to the Statue of Liberty, and from glaciers to the Everglades, parks are already being adversely affected by record heat, drought, wildfires and storms. Talking about climate change is not a political act. We can debate what to do about the facts, but not whether or not they are facts; it’s too late for that. And silencing any discussion of climate change will only harm national parks, the places where so many Americans (and others from around the world) now find common ground.

By defying a gag order the NPS (as someone representing Badlands National Park did this week) is not only an act of upholding 100 years of fierce protection of our best places but it is fulfilling its congressional mandate. Trying to mute the NPS insults the prophets and moguls and the rangers and rogues who have spent over a century protecting parks and telling America’s stories. Silencing scientists also puts at risk, for centuries to come, the bison and bears and the seashores and coral reefs, which are owned by all of us.

Heather Hansen is the author of Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Learn more about climate change and parks.

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Cover image courtesy of Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. Bureau of Special Services. 3/9/1943-9/15/1945.

Happy Birthday, National Park Service!

Long may we roam!

My most recent park adventure… the incomparable Glacier NP!


Find Your Park.

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Great tool for national park travels

Maps! Sure, I use the digital kind but, given the option, I prefer the wrinkly, coffee-stained paper versions. (Especially in national parks where I love to examine them in a tent by headlamp after dark.)

But there are times, say, in a stiff wind or when wanting to email someone about plans, that a digital version comes in handy. That’s where npmaps.com comes in. It allows users to quickly find and download national park maps. The site now has nearly 1,200 free, high-res maps to choose from.

Even if you’re just daydreaming about a park trip, check ’em out!




Parks for war and peace

The NPS is the keeper of national memories. From the Minute Man National Historical Park which explores the opening battle of the Revolutionary War to Gettysburg, the Vietnam Memorial and Pearl Harbor, those memories are of war.

On this Memorial Day during the NPS centennial year, I’m recalling all of those powerful park units I’ve been to which explore the history of battles fought at home and aboard, and where visitors can contemplate the meaning of war, and the sacrifices of soldiers and the people they left behind.

I’m also reflecting on the stories I’ve been told about the healing power of parks. From the curators of objects left along the Wall at the Vietnam Memorial, to soldiers once deployed in the Middle East reuniting at Dinosaur National Monument, it’s clear that national parks are special spaces for remembering and for renewal.

Read more about this and more in Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Photo courtesy of the NPS. 

National parks, suffering again, need outrage and action

“I’ve seen the insides of a lot of national parks. I don’t just mean the good stuff: the herds of bison at Yellowstone making the ground tremble; the immense, lolling tongues of glaciers in Wrangell-St. Elias; the goose-bump-raising room imbued with the spirits of Franklin and Jefferson where our republic began…” READ MORE of Heather Hansen’s recent guest commentary in the Denver Post.


Learn more about the amazing history of the NPS and U.S. conservation: Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Photo of Yellowstone bison, courtesy Neal Herbert, NPS.

Happy Birthday, John of the Mountains

April 21 marks the birthday of a guy who’s arguably the nation’s most famous tree hugger.

John Muir was a sheepherder, storyteller, fruit rancher, citizen scientist, tinkerer, philosopher, conservationist, and first-class wanderer.

He first saw what later became Yosemite National Park at age 29 or 30 in 1868 and, since then, the two have been inseparable. Muir fought for, and secured, Yosemite’s protection and agitated for the protection of other lands now part of the national park system.

The passion with which Muir experienced landscapes is still palpable, even these many years later. He described his initial look from above Yosemite Valley this way: “My first view of the High Sierra, first view looking down into Yosemite, the death song of Yosemite Creek, and its flight over the vast cliff, each one of these is of itself enough for a great life-long landscape fortune–a most memorable of days–enjoyment enough to kill if that were possible.”

Muir is remembered by most as a wise, avuncular figure with a long white beard and a poetic way of describing his environs. But I like to hold him in my mind’s eye as that adventurous young man, exploring wherever his legs could carry him, and expressing his sheer astonishment at what he saw and what it meant. Of those early days Muir later wrote that he’d had a “soul hunger.” He said, “I began to doubt whether I was fully born…I was on the world. But was I in it?”

Thanks to him, and many others, we too can experience utter awe in the places they devoted much of their lives to protecting.

Learn more about him at John Muir National Historical Site.

Learn more about Muir and other conservation titans in Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Free mountains, sequoias during National Park Week

Want a free mountain? How about a canyon for nothing?

Well these are your lucky days: National Park Week lasts through April 24–that’s 410 national park units from coast-to-coast (and more) completely free for visitors.

All week I’ve been thinking about the mountains, rivers and wildlife we have in my home state, Colorado. And the dinosaur bones, fossils and dunes. I’ve been playing hooky (at least in my mind); daydreaming about hiking in Rocky Mountain and Great Sand Dunes national parks, and in the spectacular canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers in Dinosaur National Monument. So many reasons to get out there.

Need inspiration? FindYourPark.

Learn more about the NPS and its 100th birthday this year.

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Photo of Rocky Mountain NP by Heather Hansen.

New park honors women’s struggle for equality

On the occasion of Equal Pay Day, the National Park Service has announced a new national monument: the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, D.C.

From the NPS:

“Tucked behind the U.S. Capitol building is a 200-year-old house that stands as a testament to our nation’s continued struggle for equality. Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument (NM) tells the compelling story of a community of women who dedicated their lives to the fight for women’s rights. The innovative tactics and strategies these women devised became the blueprint for women’s progress throughout the 20th century.

History of the House

Built on Capitol Hill in 1800, the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality NM is among the oldest residential properties in Washington, D.C. The house was nearly destroyed by British forces during the War of 1812. In the 20th century, the house became the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, a political movement that fought for equal rights for women.

Robert Sewall, a member from one of Maryland’s most influential and prominent families, built the original house at 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue, NE in 1800. Sewall rented the house to Albert Gallatin from 1801 until 1813. Gallatin served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison. During the War of 1812, the house was damaged and nearly destroyed by fire during the British invasion of Washington in August 1814. It was one of the only buildings from which the occupants made an attempt to resist the British army.

The Sewall family descendants owned the house for over 120 years. In 1922, Senator and Mrs. Porter Dale of Vermont purchased and rehabilitated the house after it had been vacant for a decade.

The Dales sold the house to the National Woman’s Party (NWP) to use as their headquarters in 1929. The NWP renamed the property the “Alva Belmont House” in honor of Alva Belmont, a benefactor of the NWP. Belmont donated thousands of dollars to women’s equality and gave the NWP the ability to purchase the new headquarters. The house also functioned as a hotel and second home for some members.

National Woman’s Party

Alice Paul founded the NWP in 1913 to address equality issues and women’s suffrage. Paul is one of the most significant figures in gaining women the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The NWP continued to fight to guarantee equal rights for women through gender equality in both the United Nations Charter and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The NWP remained in the house for over 90 years as a prominent presence on Capitol Hill. Tucked among federal office buildings, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. Capitol, the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality NM, now stands as a memorial to the dedication of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party.”

Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality NM.

Pip, pip, hooray!

traveltoparks ourbestplaces

Two bald eagles have hatched in Sauces Canyon on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. According to the NPS, this is the first successful hatch for this nest after three years of attempts by the adult bald eagle pair.

The first chick hatched March 12 and the second chick “pipped out of the egg shell” on March 14, the NPS said (in the tenor of a proud parent).

Eagles vanished from the islands by the 1960s, victims of the chemical DDT. They were reintroduced in 2005 (a male) and 2006 (a female) and, since then, their numbers have been steadily increasing. There are now 19 known breeding pairs across Channel Islands; one on Anacapa Island, eight on Santa Cruz Island, two on Santa Rosa Island, seven on Catalina Island and one San Clemente Island.

Watch the bald eagle chicks grow on the live bald eagle webcam! The live feed has a mellowing effect and–warning–is highly addictive.


Fee free days for National Park Week

traveltoparks ourbestplaces

From April 16 to 24 all national parks are free! All 400+ of them: gratis. Learn more at the NPS site.

Want to do more than just visit? Learn about other opportunities for getting involved in parks.

Find Your Park.


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