"National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
—Pulitzer prize winning author, Wallace Stegner.
When, in 1916, The National Park Service was signed into existence, the designation of national parks was seen not only as a means to preserve the land and wildlife, but to create an organic space for people to connect with nature on its own terms. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt would say, “The fundamental idea behind the parks...is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."
The National Park System of the United States now comprises more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands.
As it just so happens, Spring is an ideal time for exploring the country's iconic vistas and lush landscapes. Super blooms continue to paint the rolling hills and valleys of California and the Southwest; snow melts have filled tributaries, resulting in picturesque waterfalls visible from hikes and scenic drives; and up until late May, millions of birds will be on the move, offering opportunities to see a variety of species in their colorful mating plumage.
Where to do go and what to do depends on where you live and how far you're willing to go. A surprising number of people live near national park sites, and many do not even realize it.
The parks usually at the top of people's list to visit range from the wondrous peaks and valleys of Denali National Park (AK), to the sculpted granite domes and towering sequoia trees of Yosemite (CA), to the deep blue lakes of Glacier National Park (MO).
But really, any bucket list should start with Yellowstone, the first national park on Earth (est. 1872), which actually helped to define the concept of public land and sparked a worldwide national park movement. Today, this park of craggy mountains, alpine lakes, and dank forests is still one of the most celebrated and widely visited parks in the country.
Yellowstone is part of the South Central Rockies ecoregion, and is famous for its geothermal wonders, including bubbling mud pots and explosive steam geysers. This landmark park also features the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states and is an ideal spot to see bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk, along with other charismatic pronghorns.
Spring in Yellowstone is an especially remarkable time: Grizzly and black bears have emerged from their dens, and bison herds are spotted with rusty-colored calves born in April. As a point of interest, The Yellowstone bison herd is probably the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States, and are are among the few herds that have not been interbred with cattle.
May is also a great time for viewing the park's thriving wolf pack. Having been previously wiped out by hunting, 66 gray wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone and Central Idaho in 1995. There are now approximately 347 that presently reside in Wyoming, as well as a slowly recovering but fragile population across areas within Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Northern California.
Inhabiting a mere 15% of their historical range, the renewed presence of this integral apex predator has had measurable effects: strengthened herds, improved vegetation, and an increase in species diversity. In Yellowstone Park alone, reintroduction of gray wolves has resulted in new willow and aspen growth, and a rise in beaver, bird, and fox populations.
This hasn't kept federal legislators and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from consistently attempting to remove the protections granted to wolves by the Endangered Species Act of 1974. Presently, The Trump administration wants to strip federal protection of gray wolves in almost all of the lower 48 states.
Sadly, it seems the survival of these profoundly important animals is mired in an ongoing conflict between ecological data and political obfuscation. That's why Jacques Marie Mage has partnered with The Yellowstone Park Foundation and Living With Wolves, two compassionate science-driven organizations working to sustain gray wolf populations.
We also look forward to a collaboration with Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park that provides exceptional visitor experiences and educational programs. Together, we hope to help ensure that Yellowstone National Park thrives for generations to come.
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