This week, Americans will gather with friends and family to reflect on what we are thankful for. For some the list is long and for others, quite short. We suffer a great disparity in the means and ways we live. Our backgrounds can be dramatically different with little in common and our political views can be staunchly divisive, shaping a nation divided. Some days, there is little we agree upon.
However, this week we remind ourselves of the few things we can all be thankful for. We live in a great nation built on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have the right to speak our minds without penalty and to worship without restriction. And, most notably, that we have a shared inheritance that surpasses the great wealth of the empires of our past -- our national parks.
This is a time to give thanks. Together, we share nearly 400 national parks encompassing 84 million acres of stunning landscapes, historic sites and cultural shrines. We can be thankful for the individuals who over a hundred years ago, stood up and gave of themselves to ensure our national parks, the world's first, would exist. We can be thankful we have these sacred national parks and memorials to honor the heroes and sacrifices of this nation. Most importantly, we can all be thankful that we own these places. It's a priceless treasure that does not belong to monarchs or the wealthy, but rather to each and every American.
However, what we are so thankful for may be very easily taken away. Our national parks sit at ground zero of a changing climate. Last month, nearly 70 national parks along the east coast were impacted by the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy. In other national parks, glaciers are dramatically receding and threatened wildlife are fleeing to a shrinking bastion of protected lands. And currently the National Park Service faces dramatic and devastating budget cuts.
As the threats and demands facing our parks grow, so does the need for citizens to take action. Now is the time to the help.
As the only national nonprofit partner to the National Park Service, the official charity of America's national parks, the National Park Foundation, plays a vital role in supporting America's 398 national parks at the times and in the ways they need it most. Through our Congressionally-chartered work, we are able to channel the investment of private citizens directly into parks, focusing funds in the places where they can have the greatest impact. That is why the Foundation was quick to help the badly stricken Statue of Liberty in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and why we have invested in teaching thousands of young people the affects of climate change.
We are not alone in this critical mission. The National Park Foundation is joined by nearly 150 local charities or "friends groups" across the nation. Together, we provide the backbone of support for our national parks, raising critical funds that go directly into parks and related programs.
But we need your help. Get involved. Join the National Park Foundation or your local friends group and support your national parks. Take a moment this week to give thanks, and give back.
In a world in which our differences are expansive, and our shared ideals are few, this week you can support something we can all be thankful for - our national parks.