Preserving God's Creation Through Land Management

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.

Forty years ago in the Sonoran Desert I gave my life back to Jesus. I was 18 then. In what I call my Jonah experience, I ran away from God, my family, and my Pennsylvania home to attend the University of Arizona; but God had different plans.

In November 1975 during my first Thanksgiving in Arizona, and in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, Jesus found me. The sun was setting on the horizon and appeared as a great red ball directly framing a giant saguaro cactus with a central trunk and two symmetrical branches. In my heart the red sun became The Son and the saguaro became the Cross; I fell on my knees and once again I gave my life to Jesus.

In one moment the Bible became alive and real, especially Romans 1:20 (NIV):

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

When I travel across our beautiful country speaking at Christian conferences or in local churches I ask, "How many of you have had a "mountain-top" God moment? Consistently over 90% raise their hands.

It's one of the reasons my wife, my seven year old grandson and I pursued a cross country journey from Pennsylvania to Oregon last summer. We visited, experienced, and enjoyed our National Parks, National Forests, and Monuments on our adventure. I wanted my grandson to know the wonder of God's creation-- before it's too late.

Currently there's a movement afoot in Congress to sell off Federal Lands to states, and it's not to defend God's creation or protect our rights to enjoy them. Special interests know if lands are sold to the individual states, it will be easier to develop and despoil them by restricting access.

It's not just a spiritual concern. Anglers and hunters across America are crying foul as well. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Field and Stream, Sports Access, and just about every other outdoor sportsmen group recognize the sale of Federal land would deny our freedom. Yet some members of Congress point to fishy arguments for selling off America's treasures.

The most often quoted sell-off rationalization: reduce the federal deficit. But this would only increase our deficit, not reduce it. The federal government would lose an estimated $30 million in taxes from the Outdoors industry alone and impact 6 million American jobs in the process. Another "fish story" calls local control much more effective than federal jurisdiction. On the surface, that might be appealing to conservatives like me; but in reality local control means little resources for upkeep, and it makes it much easier for our lands to be sold.

God created this land and He is the ultimate Owner. However, since the founding of our nation, federal lands belong for us all to enjoy – not just to the rich, as was the case for our forbearers who came to this country in search of freedom. For special interests to take away our rights to enjoy, play, hunt, fish -- and most importantly, to experience God in the great American Outdoors -- is un-American.

Some of my most cherished memories are the times sitting around a campfire after a church camp commitment service and repeatedly singing "Pass It On."

I wish for you my friend;
 This happiness that I've found
 You can depend on Him
 It matters not where you're bound
 I'll shout it from the mountain top
 I want the world to know
 The Lord of Love
 Has come to me
 I want to pass it on

In these simple lyrics by Kurt Kaiser, several generations have come to faith in our National Parks, Forests, and Monuments. Let's insure that mountain tops remain a place to experience Jesus and shout His name. American lands under federal protection should be open to all God's children. Please tell Congress not to sell off "America The Beautiful."

Rev. Mitch Hescox is the President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. He lives in New Freedom, PA.

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