by Leslie Weldon
WASHINGTON — This Saturday, September 30 is National Public Lands Day.
Since 1994, National Public Lands Day has been a day of service, learning, and celebration. While September 30 is the recognized day, National Public Lands Day events are celebrated nationwide throughout September and into the first week of October.
America’s public lands are vast—640 million acres managed for the economic, social, and environmental benefit of the American people. At the Forest Service, we manage 193 million of the nation’s most scenic, economically productive, and spiritually transformative lands. This is an enormous responsibility. It is also an incredible privilege.
National Public Lands Day is a day where we can share, with the American people, the experience we enjoy every day in serving our public lands.
The cornerstone of National Public Lands Day is service. Last year, more than 236,000 volunteers did an estimated $22 million in improvement and maintenance projects across the system of public lands. This is no small contribution.
More importantly, the experience of gathering with others to serve these lands is one that can connect the American people to their public lands in a profound way. We enjoy the great privilege of service every day. This is something we want to share with all Americans: a passion for service, a love of the land, and a fundamental respect and appreciation for the bounty it provides.
Whether it’s a gathering of hundreds of volunteers for a BioBlitz or a few people helping to clear a trail, the work done on National Public Lands Day is always meaningful and important.
National Public Lands Day is an opportunity for us to showcase the Forest Service at our absolute best. Though it may be just a glimpse into the scope of our work, it is also a lens by which we can demonstrate the value of their national forests and grasslands to the American people, and the value of their public lands as a whole.
I encourage you to participate in an event near you if you can. You can find events at theNational Public Lands Day event site.
Regardless of whether you volunteer on, visit, or simply reflect on our American system of public lands and what they offer, I wish you a very happy National Public Lands Day.
Leslie Weldon currently serves as the Deputy Chief - National Forest System.