September 10, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Zoe Wirth | Photo by Emmaline Hawley

Interested in conservation or simply a lover of the outdoors? Look no further and let National Public Lands Day (NLPD) be your way to give back to the communities and ecosystems you hold most dear!

NLPD has occurred every fourth Saturday of September since 1994. The day aims to unite thousands of volunteers across the country under a common cause: to enjoy nature and reinvest in public lands while cultivating an environmentally-conscious and responsible public. 

Each year, volunteers participate in environmental projects spearheaded by land managers in order to amplify and restore national parks, places of recreation, urban green spaces, sanctuaries, and other public waters and lands. For the past 27 years, this event has played an instrumental role in cultivating an environmentally conscious and responsible populace. In addition, Sept. 25 is a ‘Fee Free Day’ meaning entrance fees to most national parks and public spaces are waived. 

That means students can enjoy popular destinations – like Arches National Park in Utah and Rocky Mountain National Park up near Estes Park – for free over first block break. 

All festivities on Sept. 25 are a hallmark of the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) who has spearheaded NPLD events and sites since the day’s creation. 

NEEF is an environmental education agency that strives to ground the American public in what it calls ‘lifelong environmental learning’ while simultaneously inspiring and empowering people to give back to the planet. 

According to NEEF, NPLD is the nation’s largest single-day public lands conservation volunteer effort. In 2019, NEEF’s data shows that over 2,000 public land sites hosted events and more than 150,000 people participated in hands-on restoration projects across the country. 

Additionally, the 2020 NPLD post-event survey reported conservation outcomes from previous NPLD events to include 668 acres of land enhanced or restored, the removal of 11,036 square feet of invasive plant species, 108 miles of trails restored or unkempt and over 28,000 pounds of trash removed from event sites among other impact numbers. 

Each year, NPLD has a designated theme. For 2021, the NPLD will build on the theme “More Ways to Connect With Nature.” Due to COVID-19, many NPLD events were held online last year. However, the online accessibility features of last year’s events shaped up to be an invaluable tool in bridging a greater range of people with environmental conservancy, education, and  NEEF. 

Building on the success of last year’s modified events’ “this year, [NEEF’s goal] is to highlight that diversity—in public lands, people, and the ways in which we value and care for these spaces—by supporting in-person, virtual, and hybrid NPLD events,” according to the NEEF website.

While Colorado College doesn’t have any specific NLPD events or partnerships, “There are many ways that students can get involved [with National Public Lands Day]. There are opportunities to volunteer at various NPLD events – both online and in-person,” said Mae Rohrbach, Sustainability Coordinator at CC’s Office of Sustainability. 

There are 37 fun, in-person events in the Colorado Springs greater area that students at Colorado College can choose to volunteer at on Sept. 25. The closest option to the CC campus is called “Community Volunteer Workday” which is a trail restoration project at Red Rock Canyon Open Space done in collaboration with the release of Fossil Brewing Co.’s newest beer, “The Pikes Peach Sour.” The second closest NPLD sponsored event is the ‘Fort Carson Tree Planting’ which will focus on planting trees in the urban area of Fort Carson. 

Volunteers can find both in-person and virtual events for Sept. 25 by viewing the event locator on NEEF’s website. You can learn more about NPLD by joining the Facebook group or visiting http://www.neefusa.org.

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