The national park is the best idea America ever had

“It’s a reminder that despite the fact that the country seems to be very nearly coming apart at the seams, there is still much to recommend it — namely, its spectacular beauty. When it comes to protected public lands, there are none better than America’s.

Ours is a boastful nation, prone to ridiculous exaggeration of our own innovativeness. Too often, it’s empty wind. In a great many areas — like our disastrously inefficient medical system, or our pathetic passenger rail — we’re still far behind where Europe was 50-80 years ago. Heck, we can’t even match Romania at internet speed — and that was developed here a mere generation back!

But national parks are unquestionably an American development. Pushed by American writers and activists, we established the first one in 1872: Yellowstone National Park. This served as a model around the world, from Australia to South Africa to Costa Rica. As Wallace Stegner once wrote, national parks might fairly be called ‘the best idea we ever had.’”

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KQED SCIENCE: National Parks Have Some Work to Do, to Become ‘Parks for All’

“They don’t feel a sense of connection,” says Nina Roberts, professor at San Francisco State University. “They just don’t feel that relationship.”

The National Park Service does preserve places that are historically and culturally significant to many peoples. Think of the birthplace of the farmworker movement in California, Aztec ruins in New Mexico, and an African burial ground in Manhattan.

But across the system, most park employees are Caucasian. The uniforms make rangers look like immigration officials. And, Roberts says, many African-Americans, particularly elders, fear the outdoors and carry the scars of slavery and lynchings.

And there are subtle ways the park has discriminated.

“At a local park here in Washington D.C., for a time, the only signs in Spanish were ‘No drinking allowed in the park,'” says Alan Spears, director of cultural resources with the National Parks Conservation Association.

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Common Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris)

While visiting the caverns, keep your eyes out for the common collared lizard! It is a beautifully colored North American lizard that can reach 8–14 inches (20–36 cm) in length (including the tail), with a large head and powerful jaws. They are well known for the ability to run on their hind legs, looking like small dinosaurs. They love warm weather and often bask in the  desert sun!

Photograph by Dakota L. | Wikipedia

(via: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM)