Exploring America’s Natural Beauty: National Park Week

Spring is a special time of year. The last remaining snow melts, the sun shines and temperatures rise, flowers bloom, and people shed their winter coats to enjoy time outside. Between flowers and fresh air, spring is full of reasons to enjoy the great outdoors. And there is no better place to do that in the United States than our national parks.

One of the hallmarks of spring in the United States is the celebration of National Park Week, which kicked off on Saturday, April 18. During National Park week, visitors are encouraged to explore and discover the park system, to volunteer and help the park system, and to enjoy some of the most beautiful places in the United States.

As the world continues to experience the effects of a global pandemic, National Park Week is focused on virtual experiences this year. At a time when social distancing measures remain in place, technology enables visitors to virtually explore some of America’s most popular tourist sites. Visitors can experience the geysers of Yosemite, visit Yellowstone’s granite domes, or hike through the Grand Canyon all without leaving their home.

The National Park System is a unique, federally managed network of parks across the United States that comprises over 400 parks across all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The national park system includes not only famous parks like Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Park, but also national battlefields, national historical sites, national seashores, and more.

The designation of national parks in the United States and the creation of a system to manage them goes back to the late nineteenth century. Yellowstone was designated as the country’s first national park in 1872 when then-President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law.

Former president Theodore Roosevelt’s commitment to conservation was also instrumental in laying the foundation for the national park system. In addition to promoting the concept of conservation, he signed legislation designating five national parks. He also created what is now known as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was the first president to create a Federal Bird Reserve. Building on this foundation, President Wilson approved legislation creating what is now known as the National Park Service in 1916.

As Roosevelt once said: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

It’s encouraging to see Armenia taking similar steps to preserve its natural beauty for future generations.  The Khosrov Reserve where I visited last spring is just one example of the important conservation efforts taking place in Armenia.

This spring, you can learn more about America’s parks, wildlife, and natural beauty through the National Park Service’s Earth Day campaign here.

For some more virtual enjoyment of nature, here are a few pictures from one of my favorite U.S. national park trips – a visit to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State with my sister and her family – and a visit to the Khosrov Reserve last summer with some of my Embassy colleagues.

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