Land celebration could bolster ties to outdoors
In what equates to a snap of the fingers in the history of human existence, man’s relationship with the outdoor world has changed so drastically in the past several thousand years that he would be unrecognizable to ancient ancestors. It is easy to see how someone wrapped in a buffalo cloak might have a hard time comprehending today’s humans’ need for bug spray, snake boots, and those funny looking miniature umbrella hats with built in fans.
Still, there’s no denying the importance of man’s connection to nature. Whether an afternoon walk with the dog to the neighborhood park or a weeklong horseback trek into the back country of Yellowstone, one might argue that man’s relationship to the outdoors now is more important than ever.
As the population grows, the access to nature through public lands will play a more vital role in providing outdoor opportunities for everyone.
The last Saturday in September was established as National Public Lands Day more than 20 years ago. In 2017, Virginia’s General Assembly voted unanimously to mark the same Saturday in September as Virginia Public Lands Day, which will be celebrated for the first time on the 30th.
“Virginia is incredibly blessed when it comes to our natural resources. Public Lands Day is a way to recognize those who had the foresight to preserve these resources and to remind ourselves that we, too, share in that responsibility,” said Delegate David Bulova. “But more than that, I hope that Public Lands Day will inspire Virginians to experience these great resources for themselves, whether that is a hike in the mountains or a family weekend at one of our parks. Public Lands Day is an incredible way to come together to celebrate what is important to us as Virginians.”
Virginia is home to 37 state parks, 63 naturalarea preserves, 22 national parks, 24 state forests, and 41 wildlife-management areas that constitute more than 3.7 million public acres, but Virginia Public Lands Day isn’t just about celebrating the large tracts of public lands in the state, it’s about celebrating them all, from the smallest of neighborhood gardens to the hundreds of miles of protected public trails.
“These public lands provide opportunities to explore the natural wonders of Virginia, protect habitat, native species, viewsheds and our waterways — thereby not only vastly improving the quality of life for our citizens but also attracting visitors and supporting our economy,” said Molly Ward, state secretary of natural resources.
Virginia’s United Land Trusts in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, The Piedmont Environmental Council, Potomac Conservancy, Trust for Public Land and other organizations across the state will celebrate Virginia Public Lands Day and have helped facilitate a number of outdoor activities open to the public.
The Nature Conservancy will host a paddle and hike on the Nottoway River/Chub Sandhill Natural Area Preserve (Southeastern Virginia) and an interpretive hike at The Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve (Southwestern Virginia). They are also cohosting two events with the Department of Conservation and Recreation at Kiptopeke and Douthat state parks.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation has coordinated events at each state park to celebrate the day, and many land trusts and other conservation and outdoor groups have events planned.
“As co-chair of the General Assembly’s Outdoor Recreation Caucus and the Virginia Sportsman’s Caucus, and as a longtime advocate and visitor of our beautiful state parks, I am very pleased that Virginia is officially joining the national recognition of our public lands and resources with the celebration of Virginia Public Lands Day. Promoting our natural heritage and beauty is a wonderful way to draw tourism dollars, highlight our environment and push conservation stewardship,” said Senator Emmett Hanger.