Program promotes student engagement in national parks

Blue Ridge Parkway planners designed the Linn Cove Viaduct to protect the fragile habitat of Grandfather Mountain. The Blue Ridge Parkway is just one of the spots students have worked with the Conservation Leaders Program. (National Park Service)

We often hear about the importance of our national parks and the benefits they provide. Protecting some of our most valued natural and historic areas, these sites have been set aside for the public. However, many of these places are in states of disrepair, having fallen victim to "deferred maintenance." 

The Conservation Leaders Program, a partnership between the National Park Conservation Association and participating universities, aims to increase student engagement with national parks and introduce them to a career in the National Park Service.

The program was born out of the need to connect young people with nearby national parks, and encourage them to further engage with public service. I had the privilege of working with fellow students on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic roadway spanning North Carolina and Virginia, where we spent sessions learning about park management, citizen engagement and outreach, and some of the challenges those in the NPS are encountering. 

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