LA CROSSE — As an avid outdoorsman, hunter and father of two boys, I believe, as do many Americans, that our National Park System and public lands play an important role in strengthening family relationships and traditions.
Sadly, it appears the Trump administration doesn’t share this belief. It recently took action to take public lands away from U.S. citizens by shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
We should all be concerned by the precedent that shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments sets. What will happen if next the Trump administration decides, without our input, to shrink the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge? The consequences that would have on Wisconsin’s environment and the economy would be disastrous.
When Teddy Roosevelt expanded the national forests during his presidency, he understood that these parks were ecological treasures that were in danger of being lost for future generations. Some of my best memories come from spending time with my family in the backcountry of a national park, unplugging from technology, sleeping under the stars, and being surrounded by awe-inspiring natural beauty.
At a time when we are becoming more and more tribal and divided, experiencing our public lands can act as a great equalizer. When you are out exploring, there is no Republican or Democrat — just enjoyment and camaraderie, and we can’t afford to lose any of the few remaining places where this is true.
Research shows every dollar invested in national parks generates $10 in economic activity and visitor spending and contributes $29.7 billion to the U.S. economy, ultimately supporting 277,000 private-sector jobs in 2014 alone.
Our national parks and national monuments provide all families an affordable opportunity to experience our country’s most unique and inspiring natural treasures firsthand.
That’s why, as co-chair of the Congressional National Parks Caucus, I have and will continue to fight against the destruction of our national parks and support initiatives that preserve our parks and public lands for future generations.
The natural beauty we have been blessed with in this country is something to preserve and treasure. I hope we can come together to ensure we protect public land for future generations.