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Christians demand stewardship of national parks

Christians demand stewardship of national parks

A general view of the Yosemite Falls flowing in Yosemite National Park in this December 3, 2014 picture provided by the National Park Service. | REUTERS/National Park Service

For Christians like myself, being outside and exploring God’s creation is a wonderful spiritual experience. This can also be an experience of great healing, especially for people like the thousands of veterans who have turned to outdoor recreation to help transform and restore their lives. Our national parks and public lands are the perfect landscape for such experiences. Multiple places in scripture, especially in the Psalms, testify to the awe-inspiring power of creation and how we can discern the powerful nature of God through it. As the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art” declares:

Oh Lord my God

When I in awesome wonder

Consider all the works Thy hands have made

I see the stars

I hear the mighty thunder

Thy power throughout

The universe displayed

Then sings my soul

My Savior, God, to Thee

How great thou art

How great thou art

These are just a few of the reasons why we support the most recent bipartisan efforts in Congress to address critical maintenance needs in national parks. The Restore Our Parks Act in the Senate and the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act in the House of Representatives present a timely, important path forward to address long overdue maintenance concerns.

Last year over 331,000 million people visited national parks. These visitors include families and individuals seeking rest and recreation in some of the most beautiful and iconic places in the United States. Unfortunately, this growing number of visitors is adding to the backlog of nearly $12 billion in maintenance needs. The list of repairs includes everything from roads and bridges to plumbing and visitor centers. At the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) we believe that national parks are essential to our quality of life and make available to everyone what belongs to God. Parks also reflect our highest ideals as Americans: that everyone is welcome because all individuals are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is precisely why we must address the growing maintenance backlog. Safe roads, open visitor centers, and functioning facilities are crucial for the wellbeing and enjoyment of every park visitor.

Over 250,000 pro-life Christians at EEN have called on Congress “to protect our parks and federal lands, add new ones, and ensure funding so that every American can enjoy the beauty of God's creation.” The awesome wonder of these places reminds us that all of humanity is called to be good stewards of the bounty upon which life depends and to protect and defend the beauty and purity of the land and water. The support and passage of the Restore Our Parks bills is a great way to live up to this calling.

The protection and restoration of national parks is also beneficial for the communities around and near the parks. As a Christian I am concerned with the flourishing and well-being of my neighbors, and national parks provide great benefits that help communities flourish, especially rural communities in the West. Visitors to national parks help support regional economies and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs. Addressing maintenance not only increases visitor safety and enjoyment but will help the gateway communities to continue to flourish.

It is time for Congress to move forward with the bipartisan efforts to restore national parks. The safety and well-being of visitors depends on these maintenance needs being addressed. As a Christian called to steward creation, I know that we cannot sit idly by and let repair needs pile up. It is well past time to make the protection and restoration of these priceless national treasures a priority. I am thankful for the leaders who have already stepped up to create or support these acts and encourage those who haven’t signed on to do so now.

Victoria Goebel is the Director of Communications for the Evangelical Environmental Network.

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