Keep America the Beautiful for All God's Kids

A bronze plaque depicting Bible verses is posted by Lookout Studio at Grand Canyon National Park near Flagstaff, Ariz. Debate over religious displays in public places has extended into national parks.

When we hear children sing "America, the Beautiful," it makes us proud to be Americans and grateful for our beautiful country. Their voices remind us that "God shed His grace" on our nation, and it's our duty to protect our great American heritage and preserve its beauty for them and future generations. That's why it's so important that we support policies that defend and preserve America's "purple mountain majesties." Our national parks and public lands -- from Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon to public baseball fields and playgrounds -- are a gift from God that must be cherished and preserved.

For those of us who are pro-life Christians, we understand ourselves to be called by God to be good stewards of the bounty upon which all life depends, to protect and defend the beauty and purity of the land and water, to have clean skies and fresh air for our children to enjoy. As Genesis teaches us, we were created in God's image and entrusted with the proper care of His creation, to "tend and keep it" (Gen. 1:26; 2:15).

Many others share these values; as "America the Beautiful" reminds us, they are in fact American values. Our public lands are essential to our quality of life; they are our national treasures that belong to all of us.

At its most basic, protecting our national treasurers means not selling them off. That's why we were quite disheartened by a recent vote in the U.S. Senate that supports the transfer of public lands to the states. These states simply don't have the resources to properly care for them, and the end result would be the selling off of public lands to private interests, closing public access and leaving their beauty unprotected from development.

To support our elected officials in doing the right thing, the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) recently asked pro-life Christians in Colorado, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee to sign a petition affirming that "our public lands are essential to our quality of life; they are national treasures" and calling on Congress "to reauthorize the Land Water Conservation Fund and to defend the Antiquities Act and all God's lands it protects, and to reject selling off America's precious lands and waters."

One of our nation's more effective conservation policies is the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Over its 50-year history, LWCF has helped our country protect land in all 50 states and is responsible for more than 40,000 state and local outdoor recreation projects such as playgrounds, urban parks, refuges, and baseball fields. LWCF's money comes from the fees that energy companies pay for being able to drill for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf. Unfortunately, Congress takes about two-thirds of this funding for other purposes. Christians call this robbing Peter to pay Paul. Not good – especially since there is a backlog of state and federal projects totaling nearly $60 billion. Congress needs to extend/continue LWCF and begin to restore its funding to proper levels.

Another vital policy for protecting our national treasures is the Antiquities Act, first used in 1906 by our greatest conservationist President, Teddy Roosevelt. This law allows Presidents designate areas as national monuments, preserving these special places for all time for our children and grandchildren. Nearly every President has utilized the Antiquities Act, Republicans and Democrats alike. Today, as in the past, we are seeing special interest call for restricting the President's use of this valuable tool. Such short-sighted partisanship must not be heeded.

This month, I delivered more than 42,000 signed petitions to elected officials in Washington, D.C. We ask our members of Congress to heed our call and take encouragement from their support for doing what's right when it comes to our national heritage and God's creation.

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