Department of the Interior leaders visited public lands across America on Saturday, September 24, to celebrate National Public Lands Day and highlight President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, a locally-led effort to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters over the next decade. National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer event for public lands, held annually on the fourth Saturday in September. Since 1979, National Public Lands Day has brought together hundreds of thousands of volunteers to help restore America’s public lands.
Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning traveled to New Mexico to visit the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Created in 2013, the 242,555-acre National Monument was established by President Obama to protect its scenic and historic values, safeguard public access, and support the region’s recreation economy. More than $24 million in investments from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) have gone to the national monument for land protection at iconic places like Ute Mountain and the Taos Valley Overlook. Secretary Haaland and Director Stone-Manning were joined by Senator Martin Heinrich, and local Tribal and community leaders.
The Great American Outdoors Act authorized permanent funding of LWCF at $900 million annually to improve recreational opportunities on public lands, protect watersheds and wildlife, and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities. This includes the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program, which is the only LWCF competitive grant program dedicated to addressing the recreational gap in underserved urban areas. The LWCF has funded $4 billion worth of projects in every county in the country for over 50 years.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to visit Masonville Cove. At the site, which includes 70 acres of water and 54 acres of restored wetlands and nature trails in the heart of the city, visitors can kayak, bird watch, tag monarch butterflies and tour a dredge material containment facility. Through the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, the Service is creating a modern conservation legacy in and near cities like Baltimore. This community-centered model includes improving accessibility of green spaces, restoring and connecting wildlife habitat, improving resilience to the effects of climate change and providing community recreation and education.
National Park Service Director Chuck Sams traveled to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to thank volunteers for their stewardship of America’s most visited National Park and public lands across America. Director Sams was joined by Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Denise Hinton, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, and leaders from the National Environmental Education Foundation to highlight the connection between the health of our public lands and the health of the public.