The crisp fall air provides an invigorating environment for outdoor activity. What better time to visit and volunteer on our national forests and grasslands than on Sept. 28, for the 20th annual National Public Lands Day and second annual National Tribal Lands Day. This is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation. This year’s theme is: “Helping Hands for America’s Lands.”
National Public Lands Day is one of six fee-free days in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Get Outdoors Day, and Veterans Day Weekend. Fees are waived generally for day use, such as picnic areas, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers. Fees are not waived for concessionaire-operated facilities or for overnight use such as camping or recreation rentals.
“America’s national forests and grasslands belong to all of us,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “These beautiful places have so much to offer, and we hope you’ll get outside and volunteer on National Public Lands Day to enjoy these places for yourself, while improving them for future visitors.”
NPLD events include diverse activities such as planting trees, learning about bats, cleaning up rivers, and much more. Participants can contact their nearest forest or grassland for event information or visit the National Public Lands Day web site. This year, many Forest Service sites will offer educational activities focusing on wildfire prevention.
National Tribal Lands Day will also take place on Sept. 28 and celebrate healthy lands, people and tribal culture. Activities will encourage volunteerism, outdoor recreation and environmental education on land that is owned and managed by sovereign tribal governments.
In 2012, about 175,000 volunteers served at 2,206 National Public Lands Day sites in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, making it the largest participation in the event’s history. They collected an estimated 500 tons of trash and 23,000 pounds of invasive plants, planted 100,000 trees and other plants and built or maintained 1,500 miles of trails.
Forest Service lands, which include 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, offer something for everyone, from the casual hiker to the thrill-seeking recreationist. There are also opportunities and programs for children, including the popular Discover the Forest and Junior Forest Ranger programs.
We look forward to seeing you at the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day and the second annual National Tribal Lands Day. Let’s make this year’s event the best one yet, as we are all stewards of the nation’s forests and grasslands.