Celebrating a Momentous Year of Support for National Parks

December 13, 2018Emily KaminNPF Blog

It was a momentous year for the National Park Foundation as we celebrated our 50th year of protecting parks and connecting visitors with these incredible places. More than just celebrating past accomplishments, the year was spent carrying on a legacy that started over 100 years ago – a legacy focused on preserving our national treasures for future generations.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, the National Park Foundation invested in important projects and programs across the National Park System – from seashores filled with turtle hatchlings to historic presidential homes and so many unique places in between. Your continued support helps protect our national heritage and engage visitors in ways that change lives and enhance these inspiring places.

Protecting Critical Species

Parks protect important plants and animals that ensure a healthy ecosystem within their boundaries and beyond. With this in mind, the National Park Foundation supported several projects that were critical to protecting the species found within national parks. In Yellowstone National Park, the cutthroat trout recovery program revives this keystone species and stabilizes the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Yellowstone National Park staff in a boat with a bucket of fish for their invasive species programs
Todd Koel/NPS

National park staff use experimental techniques to suppress the spawning of predatory lake trout and remove them from the Yellowstone Lake population. Within a year of the project’s start, 297,000 lake trout had been removed from the lake – a 25 percent reduction in catch.

“That’s a pretty staggering decline,” said project lead Todd Koel. “It’s a real signal that this population is finally crashing.”

Park staff are also studying the reintroduction of 41 wolves to the area, helping to improve its management and understanding of how the park’s natural ecosystem functions. Studies have already revealed important information about how the thriving wolf population – now at over 400 wolves – positively affects the park’s ecosystem.

California’s Redwood National Park partnered with the Yurok tribe to reintroduce condors to the park and to manage and monitor the population. The park is implementing a field internship program that gives students the opportunity to study the species and gather important data on the condors once they achieve flight-ready status in 2019.

In Minnesota, Grand Portage National Monument addressed severe declines in its local bat population by constructing a bat condo near the Mount Rose nature trail. The bat condo is specifically designed to accommodate the entire colony and the new roost site will be located just 50 meters from the bats’ foraging site, making them less vulnerable to predators. The park is ensuring the success of the bat colony by implementing an acoustic bat monitoring program. Rehabilitated trail segments and new interpretive signage will allow visitors to learn more about these important members of the ecosystem.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Rivers and Trails Acts

A group of rowboats and a small group of men on the shore of Saint Croix National Scenic River on a clear, calm day with the Vets on the River Program
National Park Service

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed landmark legislation that created thousands of trails and over 12,000 miles of rivers across America. In honor of the acts’ 50th anniversary, the National Park Foundation awarded nearly $600,000 to 20 projects that restore, protect, and increase public access to the country’s national trails and wild and scenic rivers.

Funding supported Get Active in the Park, a partnership between local nonprofits and National Parks of Southern West Virginia. The program offers free beginner-level lessons at New River Gorge National River. Community members can sign up for rock climbing, mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding, river water aerobics, and more!

Transforming National Parks into Classrooms

A group of smiling students wearing bright yellow shirts on the side of a ferry boat on the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
Dawn Kish

Our national parks are the perfect outdoor classrooms. These scenic and historic places captivate young minds and imaginations and present opportunities to learn about the histories and stories of our nation first-hand. In 2018, the National Park Foundation’s Open OutDoors for Kids program connected over 200,000 fourth graders to their local national parks by providing financial support for transportation, entry, and programming. Because of these efforts, a new generation of students had the opportunity to visit the national parks in their own backyards, often for the first time.

Over 5,000 students will visit Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in the 2018-19 school year thanks to the expansion of the park’s Learning Journeys program. As they sail down the river on a “floating classroom,” they’ll learn about the science, ecology, and history of the park. The program pairs field trips like this one with pre- and post-classroom lessons that deepen students’ understanding of scientific concepts and help them to build emotional connections to the river.

Preparing the Next Generation of Park Stewards

A large group of young adults part of the Youth Conservation Corps in blue uniforms and yellow hard hats posing a group in the woods at Yosemite National Park
Mike Coonan

In 2018, National Park Foundation granted over $1.5 million to Youth Conservation Corps across the country. Youth Conservation Corps is a youth employment program that gives participants an opportunity to acquire work experience and develop specialized skills while accomplishing critical conservation projects on public lands. Youth corps programs develop tomorrow’s leaders and diversify the National Park Service workforce.

Groundwork USA’s Urban Youth Engagement project brought 60 Youth Conservation Corps members to Yellowstone National Park to work on maintenance and natural resource projects and to learn about the National Park Service’s mission. Corps members contributed over 2,000 hours of service while installing trailhead signage and bear boxes, building floors in firewood sheds, conducting trail work, painting picnic tables, building rail fencing, and much more. In addition to their service, corps members had the opportunity to hike through the park, view wildlife in Lamar Valley, soak in the Boiling River, and take a two-day tour of Mammoth Terrace Walk.

These projects connected students to our national parks, preserved ecosystems, and maintained well-loved areas of our parks. And these are just a few of the incredible projects and programs made possible through our community of park champions!

We look forward to our next half-century of partnering with the National Park Service and hope you will continue to support initiatives like these so that even more people have the chance to enjoy our shared lands and waters!

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I would like to learn about ways to support national park with my organization, crew, and workplace.
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