As the former Superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, I have a deep appreciation for the natural wonders Florida has to offer. And so after 32 years with the National Park Service, I’ve dedicated my retirement to standing up for America’s outdoor heritage. I want to ensure that these treasures are around for future generations to enjoy.
That’s why I’m so concerned about federal efforts that would undermine efforts to establish and protect new national parks and monuments. Many members of the Florida congressional delegation have stood up to these attacks before, and I hope they will again.
Since it was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used on a bipartisan basis by 16 presidents (eight Republicans and eight Democrats) to protect America’s most iconic natural, cultural, and historic places including: Dry Tortugas and Biscayne Bay, the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Fort Monroe, the Pacific Remote Islands, and Acadia, Zion and Olympic National Parks.
The widespread diversity of historic, cultural, and natural treasures that have been protected by the Antiquities Act is the reason why groups representing sportsmen, cultural heritage organizations, evangelicals, conservation, recreation businesses, historic preservation, and many others all oppose efforts to undermine this vital law.
National parks are visited by nearly 300 million visitors annually, and show a strong return on federal investment by supporting nearly $27 billion in economic activity and nearly 240,000 jobs each year. Every dollar invested in park operations leverages about $10 for local communities, and every two Park Service jobs yield one job outside the park. National wildlife refuges support a robust American and hunting and fishing heritage, at an estimated $9.5 billion in annual retail sales, 189,400 jobs and $1.01 billion in annual federal tax revenues.
National parks … show a strong return on federal investment by supporting nearly $27 billion in economic activity and nearly 240,000 jobs each year.
You get the idea. These lands have “value” to us far beyond the peace of mind and good cheer conveyed through time in the great outdoors .That’s why I’m disappointed to see to members of Congress, led by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, trying to block new units of the National Park System with HR 3990, a bill that would gut the Antiquities Act. This legislation, and others like it, threaten to undermine the protections that gave us the beautiful public lands, national monuments and National Parks we have all come to love, and where many of us work, play, pray, hunt and fish.
Florida is lucky to have many members of its congressional delegation — like Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who have stood up to extremists like Bishop and voted to protect the Antiquities Act. It shows real leadership to look beyond the partisanship consuming Congress to ensure that future generations can access our great outdoors. Our outdoor heritage relies on them and others in Congress continuing to stand up for new parks and the Antiquities Act.
If we want to ensure that “This Land is Your Land” stays true, we need all our elected representatives to show courage and leadership — and I hope they do. National parks are America’s greatest idea, and belong to all of us, always.
Richard G. “Dick” Ring is the former Superintendent of the Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Park. He is currently a member of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.
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