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For 150 years, the dominant story of public lands in the United States has been one of expansion and protection. Since Yosemite became a refuge in 1864, we’ve pioneered the world’s first national park system and created wilderness areas that are the gold standard for preservation. These places are so deeply embedded in the American psyche that we’ve taken them for granted. Now they’re under threat, not just from development and divestment plans, but from climate change as well. Suddenly, that 150-year story is in danger of reversing course.
If ever there was a time to stand up for public lands, it’s now. These are the places that transform our lives, the places where memory mingles with air, wood, water, and rock. Regardless of our differences, hikers can all agree on this: Preserving America’s wild places matters more than ever.
If you’re reading BACKPACKER, odds are good you’ve experienced some of your greatest days while on public land. Think about one of those times. Think about how it broadened and enriched your world, how it changed you. Now imagine that it never happened.
If that alarms you, good. It’s time to act. Happily, the most important thing you can do for public lands is visit them; there’s no better way to turn hikers into supporters. Use your boots—and pen and phone and voice. Make yourself heard, and ensure the next generation has as much open space as we enjoy today, not less.