Are We Ready for Our Close-up? (Guest Post)

Are We Ready for Our Close-up? (Guest Post)

Backpackers explore Yosemite's high country. Photo: Keith Walklet

In this guest post, Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean, who is currently serving as one of the Yosemite Centennial Ambassadors, shares some thoughts on the National Park Service's 100th birthday and the next century of our public lands.

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, there is a lot of media coverage about the parks.  Amidst the buzz and birthday wishes, we should take a moment to recognize the dedicated and talented cadre of park rangers and other professionals responsible for managing our nation's amazing public lands and monuments. 

This anniversary is about the birth of a movement, rather than just the creation of a federal agency. That movement to preserve spectacular parks for all people, not just the wealthy, has been called "America’s Best Idea."

Some of the conservation victories that have come out of that movement are described as temporary. Indeed, the National Park Service was created partly in response to the 1913 congressional passage of a bill to allow construction of a reservoir in then-fledgling Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Fortunately, since then, we have learned much about Yosemite’s important ecology and iconic features.  Science guides modern park management, including decisions about protecting wildlife. Careful research and planning has shaped Conservancy donor-supported efforts to restore populations of several species in recent years: a herd of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep  is back in the Cathedral Range after an absence of more than a century; rare frogs and turtles have been returned to the Valley, where they haven't been seen in 50 years; peregrine falcons are continuing a successful comeback.

Several years ago, I led the early planning and funding efforts for the National Park Service Centennial in Washington, D.C.  Having a front-row seat to how things worked at the national headquarters was invaluable experience, but what I really learned during my time in D.C. is that meaningful change happens more readily at the park level than on Capitol Hill.

That is where you and I come in.  

Whether as representatives of partner organizations, as donors, or as visitors, we all have an opportunity to play a part in supporting and preserving our parks. Through our generous donors, the Conservancy has been able to provide a margin of excellence on important projects throughout Yosemite, with the improved approach to Yosemite Falls and the current restoration of Mariposa Grove as just two examples.

Yosemite has become a world-class destination with record growth in visitation in recent years.  The business community may welcome the crowds, but what is the quality of the visitor experience as people wait in long lines?  And, who is coming to the parks?  Do visitors reflect the changing face of America? How can the parks remain relevant to the next generation? 

These are all questions and challenges our national parks are considering as they enter this next century of service.  And here at the Conservancy, we'll be there to support the National Park Service as we explore new approaches and ideas to preserve Yosemite and better serve visitors long after the Centennial celebrations come to a close.

Thanks for your support that makes it all possible. 

— Frank Dean, President and CEO, Yosemite Conservancy

Read Frank's bio to learn more about his background in the National Park Service and his path to the Conservancy.

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