How We're Honoring Earth Day

Emily KaminNPF Blog
visitors using a map surrounded by large boulders
A family of visitors at Joshua Tree National Park - NPS Photo / Alessandra Puig-Santana

Earth Day was first established in 1970 to bring greater attention to environmental issues and in the 50 years since, the holiday has become an opportunity to celebrate the air, land, and water that surround us and to renew our commitment to protecting the natural world. National Park Foundation (NPF) is commemorating Earth Day by reflecting on our role helping to preserve the built and natural environment within the national park system and in connecting people to the history and stories that they offer. The National Park System encompasses rivers, trails, seashores, monuments, battlefields, and so much more; all of which welcome visitors to discover their own adventures in places that belong to us all.

With the help of our community of national park champions, in 2020, NPF provided $34 million dollars to national parks and partners and made a lasting impact on these public lands.

Brought Learning to Life

A uniformed ranger holds up a bear skull to a digital tablet during a distance learning lesson

A ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks gives a distance learning lesson

NPS Photo / Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

NPF provided more than $2.1 million via our Open Outdoors for Kids program, which helped 100,147 students experience the magic of national parks either in-person or virtually. These field trip grants made classroom lessons come to life in the greatest outdoor classrooms: our national parks.

"The park brought to life what the students had been learning in the classroom about Florida's unique nature and the habitats of the Everglades and the animals that live there."

With help from NPF’s field trip grants, students learned about the geology of Yosemite National Park while hiking the stunning Yosemite Valley. Another group of students traveled to President’s Park for a tour of the White House, while others learned about food webs on the beaches of Cumberland Island National Seashore. Elsewhere, students snowshoed across Glacier National Park to learn about winter ecology first-hand.

Grants also enabled students to participate in distance learning through virtual field trips like the one at Santa Monica National Recreation Area, where a presenter took participants on a nature walk around the park showing them live animals and plants. Other students took a 360-degree virtual tour of Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site during which they explored exhibits and learned the story of the 1901 inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt through text descriptions, audio and video clips, and images of period artifacts.

Conserved Lands & Natural Resources

Aerial view of Berg Bay in Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Berg Bay in Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

NPS Photo

Thanks to a partnership between The Conservation Fund, NPF, the Hoonah Indian Association, and the National Park Service (NPS), a 150-acre cultural site located at the head of Berg Bay at Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve will be protected in perpetuity as part of the National Park System. The site is especially sacred to the Huna Tlingit, the people native to Glacier Bay, as it encompasses a large portion of Chookanhéeni [Grassy River]: the site of an ancestral Tlingit village and the place of origin of the Chookaneidí Clan. 

NPF also helped parks and partners rehabilitate the natural resources of our national parks, including the following: 

  • 5,292 plants and trees planted at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area's Cheeseboro Canyon as part of Student Conservation Association’s contributions to rebuilding after the 2018 Woolsey Fire
  • 2,000 pounds of trash and litter removed from popular fishing spots at Biscayne National Park by interns and volunteers
  • 25,823 invasive trees and plants removed from over 500 acres of forest and woodlands at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park as part of an effort by Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes to rehabilitate trails damaged by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes  
  • Nearly 60 acres of natural habitat restored, and 7,935 plants and trees planted at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area by Mississippi Park Connection’s River Crew members

Protected Wildlife

A solitary elk looks into the distance at the edge of a creek. In the background, a snow-tipped range of mountains

Elk at Big Spring Creek at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

NPS Photo

Many species find their homes in our national parks, and NPF has the honor of helping to protect their habits and ensure that they thrive. In 2020, we worked with partners to protect several species, including wolves, golden eagles, and cutthroat trout at Yellowstone National Park, Florida bonneted bats and American crocodiles at Everglades National Park, monarch butterflies at Grand Canyon National Park, salmon at Olympic National Park, and elk at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. At Glacier National Park, NPF funding is helping prepare for the potential return of bison to the park for the first time in 150 years. This support allows the park, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Blackfeet Tribe to evaluate the impact of the bison’s return on the park’s habitat, diverse species, and natural resources.

Enhanced the Visitor Experience

Dusk shot of the Jefferson Memorial from across the Tidal Basin

Thomas Jefferson Memorial at dusk

Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The National Park Foundation wants to ensure that the National Park System is equipped for its second century of park stewardship and can ensure that parks are welcoming and safe spaces for all who visit. In all, NPF funded projects that constructed or maintained over 70 public facilities throughout the National Park System, including public grills, ash bins, and picnic areas at Rock Creek Park and Shenandoah National Park and kiosks, campgrounds, and restrooms at Biscayne National Park.  And thanks to a generous contribution by philanthropist David Rubenstein, visitors to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. will experience state-of-the-art exhibits, which will incorporate new designs with tactile and auditory elements designed with universal accessibility in mind.

Preserved History & Culture

Papers on a table that include images of Carter G. Woodson and Mary McLeod Bethune, "The Journal of Negro History", and "The Negro History Bulletin"

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site

NPS Photo / Victoria Stauffenberg

We launched the Women in Parks initiative by providing 23 inaugural grants totaling more than $460,000 for projects and programs that help NPS tell the stories of women in national parks. These grants will help connect people to the stories of women like Coretta Scott King and Carrie A. Tuggle through physical and digital park exhibits, guided walks, talks and special events, digital content, and more. 

NPF continues to support projects as part of the African American Experience Fund, which focuses on honoring African American history. In 2020, the fund provided financial support to endeavors like the development of new exhibits at Carter G. Woodson National Historic Site, the restoration of the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church at Harriet Tubman National Historic Site, and the enhancement the visitor experience at the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail using immersive technologies and oral histories.

Kept People Connected

A woman and two young children lay in a small tent, set up indoors, and read a book on the floor
iStock / monkeybusinessimages

During a challenging time that kept many of us distanced or at home, NPF helped people find solace and escape in the wonders of our national parks. We brought parks to people, providing digital park experiences including virtual tours, park webcams, activities, games, activities, and more. Since its launch in April 2020, the hashtag #FindYourVirtualPark has reached more than 76.2 million Twitter accounts. 

We supported the park partner community as they navigated these unprecedented circumstances by launching our Park Partner Resource Portal, which houses a variety of resources for Friends Groups and other philanthropic organizations, including communication tools and resiliency modules on branding, culture, leadership, strategy, and how to adapt in times of crisis. We also released our 2020 Park Partner Report, as well as an accompanying infographic, on the results of an assessment of the robust, growing community of over 450 park partners.  

We held the first virtual Friends Alliance meeting, which connected over 350 individuals for peer-to-peer learning, updates from national park service leadership, and strategic discussions.

It’s thanks to our dedicated community of park champions that NPF can support important initiatives like these. We hope you'll join us in our continued commitment to protecting national parks for future generations by donating today.

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