As the fall season slowly matriculates and the autumn equinox makes its debut, volunteers are encouraged to give back by participating in the annual National Public Lands Day.
National Public Lands Day, in its 22nd year, is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort in support of public lands. Last year, more than 175,000 volunteers served at over 2,000 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Since it’s inception in 1994, with only three sites and 700 volunteers, the event has garnered community support year-after-year.
On national forests, grasslands and prairies, nearly 110,000 volunteers and service members contributed 4.6 million hours on critical projects last year. Their service was valued at a whopping $105 million.
This year, several NPLD projects will support Every Kid in a Park, an Obama Administration initiative to get fourth graders and their families onto federal lands and waters that serve as unparalleled outdoor classrooms showcasing the Nation’s cultural and natural resource history.
Nationwide, the Forest Service has registered over 189 National Public Lands Day sites across the United States and Puerto Rico. Some of the projects the Forest Service highlights this year includes 21st Century Conservation Service Corps member organizations and the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.
The following projects were selected as National Signature Events:
Anacostia River, World Water Monitoring Day in Washington, DC.
Partners will engage urban youth in environmental education and stewardship projects at the Earth Conservation Corps center in Southeast Washington D.C. This project supports the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, World Water Monitoring Day and National Public Lands Day. Students in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades will take water quality samples from the Anacostia River, uploading them into National Geographic software. Conservation education activities will be led by Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, DC Water, and Earth Conservation Corps staff. The event is free, but closed to the public.
- Clinton Park – Houston Parks and Recreation Department in Houston, Texas.
This project will occur at Clinton Park in partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Green Institute at Furr High School and Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands (Latino Legacy) in Texas. The project will serve as an extension of the Fish and Wildlife Service Urban Refuge Partnership which will fund fruit tree plantings and native plant understory to support pollinator conservation and resources for public use and consumption. The event will be held on Oct. 3.
- Daniel Boone National Forest in Stanton, Kentucky.
Living Archaeology Weekend takes place on the grounds of the Gladie Visitor Center on the Cumberland Ranger District. Friday, Sept. 18 is reserved for 5th grade students (approximately 1,000) from the surrounding communities. Students will learn about historic and prehistoric Kentuckians through hands-on demonstrations. The event is free and open to the public on Sept. 19, from 8 am – 5pm.
- Great Lakes Bat Festival in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Great Lakes Bat Festival participants have the opportunity to help make “Green Bat Boxes” for placement on public lands including national forests. At the event, coordinated by the Organization for Bat Conservation, participants discover the importance and uniqueness of bats in a fun and interactive environment. Along with building bat boxes, participants can explore the “bat cave”, meet Stella Luna, the fictional children’s book female Megabat character, see bats from around the world and learn about bats and their habitats from state, federal land and wildlife managers. The event is Sept. 26, from 10:00am – 5:00pm. Tickets are $15 (free for 2 years old and under) and include admission to the Institute of Science and opening day of the BATS: Superheroes of the Night exhibit.
To find an event near you, visit National Public Lands Day Find a Site.
The Forest Service also offers fee-free days in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, National Get Outdoors Day and Veterans Day. Fees are waived generally for day use areas, such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers. Fees are not waived for concessionaire-operated facilities or for overnight use such as camping or recreation rentals. Contact your local national forest to learn if your destination requires a fee and if that fee is waived.