In the federal system of protected places, lands, and monuments there are no fewer than 1300 places we have designated as having unique natural or historical value.
I have always been an unabashed supporter of our National Parks and places. Moving to Houston, a place where history and nature are a distant second thought, if that, only served to accent my love. To me, the conservation ethic embodied in this system is something that strikes at the heart of what this nation was and is. May it ever be so.
In a nation still rapidly converting its open space into cookie-cutter developments of pre-fabricated McMansions, it is comforting to know that, even with the less-than-wise development patterns we have come to embrace on the local level, there are still refuges, last stands of sanity.It would be nice if this ethic extended to the environment all around us rather than just officially designated parcels, as if nature was only something we "go to". Without coming off as too much the sort who revels in arboreal embraces, there is more tied up in these last pieces of wilderness than just a piece of land on a map. They are simultaneously a continuing national commitment, and a recognition that the greatness of our nation stems not just from its government and people, but in the relation of those people to the land, the one element that stands constant across the sweep of history.
At last count I have been to only 46 of those 1300+ places, including only 8 of the National Parks. (Current National Park count: Arches, Bryce, Haleakala, Zion, Capitol Reef, Shenandoah, Mammoth Cave, and the Grand Canyon.)
Time to stop typing, and get hiking.
Capitol Reef National Park