WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 AT 3:30 PM EDT - The U.S. Forest Service is offering a fee-free day on Sept. 27, 2014 in conjunction with the 21st annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the Nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands projects that ensure sustainable ecosystems and promote vibrant communities.
"On National Public Lands Day, we welcome you to join trail maintenance projects, campouts, shoreline cleanups and much more," said U.S. Forest Chief Tom Tidwell. "Volunteering on a project on this special day will provide a rare opportunity to learn about safe outdoor recreation and natural resources conservation, and may even offer a glimpse of wildlife that you don't get to see every day."
National Public Lands Day began in 1994 with three sites and 700 volunteers. It proved to be a huge success and became a yearly tradition, typically held on the last Saturday in September. Since the first NPLD, the event has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2013, about 175,000 volunteers served at 2,237 sites in every state, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Nearly 108,000 volunteers and service members contributed 4.3 million hours on critical projects on national forests, grasslands and prairies last year. Their service was valued at close to $94 million.
Nationwide, the Forest Service has registered over 156 sites across the United States and Puerto Rico. As an agency that manages public lands, the Forest Service highlights National Public Lands Day projects on national forests and grasslands that include connections to wilderness and youth engagement in conservation stewardship, education and outdoor recreation.
The following projects were selected as National Signature Events, based on demonstrated commitment to conservation stewardship:
- Sawmill Gulch Trailhead, Missoula, Montana
- Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Grey Towers National Historic Site, Milford, Pennsylvania
All three projects will focus on expanding volunteerism, engaging diverse communities, 21st Century Conservation Service Corps and the Wilderness 50th Anniversary.
Several other Federal agencies are also observing National Public Lands Day. To find an event near you, visit the NPLD website.
The Forest Service also offers fee-free days in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. 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.
The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.