This week we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the agency that oversees natural wonders like Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Public lands have played such an important role over the past century, and not just in the opportunities they provide for recreation and respite. National parks, forests, monuments and wildlife refuges protect natural and cultural heritage, keep our air and water clean, and provide economic benefits for local communities.
But if there’s one thing we’d like to see grow and develop over the next 100 years of the National Park Service, it’s representation — the face of today’s America reflected on public lands. According to a poll released this week by New America Media and the Next 100 Coalition, 95 percent of our country’s voters of color believe it is important for young people to see their cultures and histories reflected in America’s public lands. That’s why four out of five respondents say they approve of President Obama’s commitment to protecting national public lands, and believe it’s important for the next president to continue improving access to America’s most treasured places for people of all cultures and backgrounds.
The poll surveyed 900 African American, Latino and Asian Pacific American voters nationwide and received extensive media coverage in the days leading up to the Aug. 25 Centennial. Its findings challenge a perception that communities of color are uninterested in national public lands, a misconception rooted in studies reporting lower rates of outdoor engagement than that of Caucasian Americans.