For 25 years, National Public Lands Day has brought together thousands of people to donate their time, talent, and passion to support America’s public lands. It’s celebrated the fourth Saturday of September, but volunteer events and celebrations are held throughout September and well into October.
These volunteer contributions are incredibly valuable to public lands and to the USDA Forest Service. In fact, promoting shared stewardship by increasing partnerships and volunteerism is one of the Forest Service’s top priorities.
Over the last 24 years, more than 3.5 million volunteers contributed nearly 14 million volunteer hours valued at more than $400 million dollars on National Public Lands Day. The Forest Service has been one of the beneficiaries of that work, along with eight federal agencies and countless state, local, and nonprofit organizations that take part every year.
The work that is accomplished during National Public Lands Day is critical. While small projects happen all over the country, there are emergent projects like the coastal restoration work on areas devastated by Hurricane Maria in El Ancón, Loiza, Puerto Rico. Other events, like Celebrating 50 Years of New Mexico’s Rivers and Trails, focus more on education, games, and music, while also hosting a stewardship project and panel discussions that highlight the value of public lands to different people.
Regardless of the shape the events take on National Public Lands Day, their impact is felt. Since National Public Lands Day began in 1994, more than 42,000 volunteer projects have taken place.
“Our volunteers, the work they do, and the impact it has on our national forests and on our country is real,” said Tamberly Conway, National Public Lands Day co-coordinator for the Forest Service. “This is one of those days that brings Americans from all backgrounds, from all over America, together to lend a hand in caring for America’s public lands.”
“After all, these forests, grasslands, trails and rivers that the Forest Service works diligently to manage belong to the people,” Conway added. “These special places belong to all of us.”