September 28 — National Public Lands Day

I’m cheating a bit with today’s entry.  Technically, in 2019, National Public Lands Day will be celebrated on September 28.   However, it doesn’t always fall on this date.  National Public Lands Day occurs on the fourth Saturday in September.  That is the 28th in 2019.

BLM employees and volunteers replaced wildlife-friendly fencing in Wyoming in 2014 (photo by Bureau of Land Management)

            The date moves around in order to accomplish the purpose of National Public Lands Day (NPLD).  Volunteers from around the United States pitch in on the fourth Saturday (when most people aren’t working or in school) to maintain and improve our great public lands.  It’s a fine strategy—for the September 22 version in 2018, more than 113,000 volunteers spent nearly half a million hours at 1,176 sites doing $11 million of work! 

            NPLD began in 1994, as a project of the National Environmental Education Foundation.  That foundation was chartered by the U.S. Congress to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to “make the environment more accessible, relatable, relevant, and connected to the daily lives of all Americans.  The organization has many programs, but National Public Lands Day is one of their most successful.  NPLD has become the single largest day of volunteer activity in America’s public parks in the year.

US Forest Service employees and volunteers install a bench on a trail in Shasta-Trinity National Forest in 2017 (photo by Carol Underhill, Shasta-Trinity National Forest)

            NPLD has a number of sponsoring groups, including the primary land-management agencies of the U.S. government and many state and local park programs.  The Bureau of Land Management is the most active, with 172 events in 2018, followed by the National Park Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers.  For two decades, the Toyota Corporation has been the lead private partner for the day’s activities.  Over that time, more than 50,000 Toyota volunteers have worked at more than 600 sites, contributing 193,000 hours.

            The participants in NPLD are many and varied.  In 2018, the most frequent kinds of participants were university students, public school groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and corporate groups.  The work is also varied—removing invasive plants, collecting trash, restoring degraded lands and waters, planting trees, building and repairing facilities, and maintaining trails.  NPLD activities also often include related outdoor recreation and environmental education events—you know, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

US Corps of Engineers employee service lunch to volunteer in 2011–good food, fun and work! (photo by Carolos J. Lazo, US Army Corps of Engineers)

            And here’s a little bonus for all of us:  Admission to all National Park Service parks, monuments and other sites is free on National Public Lands Day.  And if you do chose to join as a volunteer for NPLD, don’t worry about missing out—you’ll get a coupon good for a fee-free day of your choice.  So, grab your work gloves and get to a park!

References:

National Park Service.  National Public Lands Day.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/public-lands-day.htm.  Accessed July 9, 2019.

NEEF.  About NEEF.  Available at:  https://www.neefusa.org/about-neef.  Accessed July 9, 2019.

NEEF.  2018.  Final Report—25th Annual National Public Lands Day.  Available at:  https://www.neefusa.org/sites/default/files/assets/npld/2018/NPLD2018-FinalReport.pdf.  Accessed July 9, 2019.