Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, director of documentaries like The Civil War and Baseball, trains his lens on The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, a six-episode series that premieres Sunday on PBS. (Click here to view a preview. You may also purchase the DVD boxed set or companion book on Oct. 6.) 

Sadly, well-known parks like Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Acadia (right) are beginning to show their age, and they’re now threatened by funding shortfalls, pollution, climate change and encroaching developers. 

This hasn’t stopped committed individuals from fighting for the parks’ survival: 

  • Maxine Johnston, dubbed the “Godmother” of Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, worked tirelessly for 50 years to help protect some 100,000 acres of highly diverse wildlife habitat.
  • Former Miami Herald reporter Juanita Green, featured in Burns’s film, wrote stories that were instrumental in creating and protecting Biscayne National Park. In the 1960s, the park was threatened by a proposal to dredge a channel through the bay and turn the area into a city.

 So, what can you do to help? 

  1. Visit and explore one of our 391 national parks. Share your experiences with others to build support.
  2. Join the movement without leaving home. Sign up for news and action alerts. Write to President Obama, and contact your congressional representatives and other decision makers. Voice your concerns about park conservation.
  3. Reduce your carbon footprint. Global warming’s effects are already visible at national parks. At Glacier National Park, glaciers are disappearing faster than scientists predicted. In parks across the country, native trees and animals are losing ground because changing temperature and weather patterns affect the availability of food, water and shelter. Visit the Do Your Part! For Climate Friendly Parks website, which  helps you calculate your carbon footprint. Set goals for buying local foods, reducing automobile use and saving energy at home.

Photo courtesy of ARA