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Checking In On America The Beautiful

By Mike Murray, Chair of the Executive Council of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.

Two years ago, as part of our preparation for President Biden’s incoming administration, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks prepared a report that identified recommended changes in direction for our national parks and programs to help restore the agency’s effectiveness at implementing its mission and ensure that National Park Service (NPS) employees were supported with strong leadership and sufficient resources to do their jobs.

We have been happy to see numerous recommendations from that report addressed in the past two years, including filling senior level vacancies, taking steps to reestablish the NPS as a leader in the fight against climate change, and investing in the protection of our nation’s cultural resources.

We also appreciate the Biden administration taking positive action in other areas, including reforms to the federal oil and gas leasing program and investment in the continued protection of our national parks and public lands with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

We strongly support the America the Beautiful Initiative and applaud the steps President Biden has taken so far to help conserve 30 percent of our nation’s lands and waters by 2030. A preliminary report released by the administration in May 2021 outlined the core principles that would guide the program’s conservation efforts, including a collaborative approach to conservation, supporting locally led conservation efforts, honoring Tribal sovereignty and supporting the priorities of Tribal Nations, pursuing conservation and restoration approaches that create jobs and support healthy communities, and using science as a guide.

Progress has been made, but there is much work yet to be done. With less than two years remaining in their current term, now is the time for the Biden administration to implement additional policies and reforms that will help ensure the protection of our national parks, public lands and waters, wildlife, biodiversity, and climate.

While we celebrate the designation of the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument and the restored protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, we also urge the President to move swiftly to designate other sites of natural, historic, and cultural significance – such as Avi Kwa Ame, Castner Range, 1908 Springfield Race Riot, and Range of Light – as national monuments.

These actions will not only help us fulfill the goals laid out in the 30×30 initiative but ensure the continued protection of irreplaceable stories and spaces for generations to come.

Mike Murray retired in 2012 as superintendent of the Outer Banks Group after a 34- year career with the National Park Service. He currently serves as Chair of the Executive Council of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.