Nature Important Now More Than Ever

WEDNESDAY MARKS the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and serves as an ideal time for us to pause and reflect on just how important nature is to us.

This is especially true now as we navigate through the need for social distancing, concerns about the health of loved ones, challenges of closures, and longer-term impacts to the economy. Nature is a safe and low-cost source of escape, solace, and exercise for so many of us during this crisis. This is something we should remember and continue to appreciate looking forward. I’ve experienced first-hand how much the natural world offers a sanctuary for reflection and inspiration during trying times.

When processing my parents’ divorce as a teenager, working through life-changing choices in my 20s, managing changes in my job status in my 30s and 40s, and now with the coronavirus crisis, I have headed out to take walks in nature. There is something centering and hopeful in the expansive views and in seeing life go on with plants, birds, and other animals in the world. Nature offers profound perspective on what is possible and what is important. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who established Earth Day, which set the stage for an improved natural world. People like Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, and Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring, brought national and political attention to intensifying environmental issues of the time, such as air and water pollution.

Their efforts led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and numerous laws that protect our environment, including The Clean Air Act, The Endangered Species Act, The Clean Water Act, The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and many more. These initiatives helped to set us on a trajectory that we should continue to sustain over the next 50 years and beyond. With the support of your representatives, The Great American Outdoors Act could soon be added to that list of foundational environmental laws. Introduced by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, the act would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as help address the backlog of maintenance needs in our national parks. Roughly 1,500 special sites in Ohio have been protected and maintained with help from this conservation fund.

In and around Toledo this includes Promenade Park, Wildwood Preserve Metropark, and Maumee Bay State Park. This foundation has also helped to protect the state’s only national park—the beloved Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeast Ohio. The Land and Water Conservation fund is not funded by taxpayer dollars, but rather by royalties that oil companies pay to the government for offshore drilling. In addition to protecting parks and natural areas, it’s also important to help ensure that places like the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the other 400-some sites across the country managed by the National Park Service, receive needed maintenance that has been deferred for many years because of lack of funding.

These initiatives not only protect and conserve important open spaces but also support the economy through associated tourism and jobs. Just as our environmental leaders came together at a time of crisis in the past, I now see around me communities banding together in a demonstration of collaboration, strength, and resilience. It’s been uplifting to see people rally around a cause and cooperate for the common good. I expect to be equally encouraged by the resilience we’ll see in the months ahead. And while there is still much left to do, we know that nature, too, is resilient.

This is evidenced by the vast improvements we’ve seen in some aspects of the environment over the last 50 years, such as the return of the bald eagle and the recovery of the Cuyahoga River. It reminds us that there is always hope, and that is something we all need more of right now.

Bill Stanley is the state director for the Nature Conservancy in Ohio.



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