big bend national park texas
Regrettably, Big Bend National Park, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and others are not as protected as we remember, and as they approach their 100th birthday in just seven years, they need our help. Many of the challenges facing our parks 80 years ago still plague the system today, including federal funding shortfalls, air and water pollution, invasive plants and animals, and encroaching development. Moreover, national parks now confront the added threat of global climate change. For instance, non-native, invasive animals and plants are degrading Big Bend National Park. Hundreds of Barbary sheep, also known as Aoudad, threaten the recovery of native desert bighorn sheep. Feral hogs have begun rooting and wallowing at water sources, and were recently documented in the Chisos Mountains, where they compete with the small and tenuous black bear population for food.
Big Bend and other national parks endure because American citizens for generations have fought for the protection of national parks big and small around the country. National parks have a special place in the hearts of the American people. In a 2006 Harris Poll measuring citizen support for federal government programs and services, national parks topped the list. Today, tens of thousands of us help our national parks by sending letters to our elected officials in Washington, D.C., supporting local park friends groups, and volunteering for activities such as clearing trash from the beach at Padre Island, leading tours for visitors to the San Antonio Missions, and maintaining trails and removing invasive weeds from Big Bend.
Congress and the White House also have a responsibility to preserve our national heritage. Last week, a bipartisan commission offered recommendations to enhance the National Park Service itself and its ability to protect our breathtaking landscapes and historic and cultural treasures; and provide opportunities for all of us, especially young people and diverse communities, to connect with our shared national heritage, and be involved in protecting it. This is our chance to renew our promise to America, to ourselves, and to the generations that come after us. Together, we can dust off our old albums, flip through faded family photos of Old Faithful in Yellowstone and bears at Big Bend, and do what is needed to protect America's best idea for our descendants.