The National Parks system is truly one of America's greatest treasures, and we're committed to helping organizations who work every day to protect our natural and cultural heritage sites.
That's why this month's EveryAction Hero is the National Parks Conservation Assocation (NPCA) - a longstanding national organization focused on protecting and advocating on behalf of our national parks. We sat down with Ed Stierli, Director of NPCA's Find Your Voice Initiative, to hear about the incredible work they do.
"What kind of work does NPCA do?"
Ed Stierli: The National Parks Conservation Association, for almost 100 years, has been an independent nonprofit solely focused on advocating to protect our National Parks.
We were founded three years after the creation of the National Park Service (NPS), because the first director recognized the need for a citizen-based advocacy organization to speak up on the parks’ behalf. We’ve been doing just that ever since; for all 412 “units” of the National Park Service we’re there to make sure they’re protected and around for future generations.
"What's the significance of 'Find Your Voice'?"
ES: Find Your Voice is an initiative of NPCA, associated with the NPS Centennial this year. Organizations across the United States are working to ensure that people “find their park” by connecting all Americans with national parks.
With NPCA being the advocacy organization for the parks, we think it’s really important for people to speak up for their parks as well, so our campaign, “Find Your Voice,” is all about finding that next generation of national park advocates.
We’re really focused on engaging younger populations, millennials and more diverse communities, connecting them with national parks near urban areas, and talking to them about many issues that they may not normally associate with affecting parks, such as climate change or clean air.
As part of this initiative, we’ve hosted around 100 events this year, engaging nearly 30,000 volunteers to come out and take action in protecting their parks. These include participation in service projects, simply experiencing the parks, learning about the issues, and getting equipped with advocacy skills.
We teach people about how they can take action by contacting their member of Congress or other elected official to make sure that the parks that they love stay protected.
"How is online organizing, technology, and the digital space important to your work?"
ES: We do a lot of online organizing. NPCA urges supporters to contact members of Congress via email, digital postcards, and social media. In fact, I think we were one of the first organizations to try out EveryAction’s new Social Advocacy tool. We've used that to get people tweeting at their members of Congress about the importance of protecting the national parks, right from the parks themselves.
Offline, we also have a field organizing piece - with 25 regional offices across the country, including staff that are out there in parks and communities regularly leading events and activities. That field organizing includes everything from getting people to sign grassroots postcards and petitions, organizing public meetings, and holding advocacy skill-building trainings, all focused on protecting our national parks.
That’s where we’ve really deployed EveryAction. With EveryAction, we now have a seamless database and technology that integrates with all of our field staff’s capability to use it. They’re now more able to keep in touch with the advocates that they’re recruiting, with the contacts they have in the field, and then also see how they are taking action online. We’ve never really had that before. We used to have just our online organizing and field organizing separate - and now [with EveryAction], we’re getting a seamless connection between those communications and have a more blended form of advocacy because our field staff are able to use EveryAction.
"Are there any specific campaigns that you’re excited about or proud of ?"
ES: One of the things that we do at NPCA is advocate for future national parks, in places that we feel are culturally, historically, or naturally significant enough to become one of the most protected places in the country.
This spring, we celebrated the designation of Stonewall National Monument in New York, which is the first national park site dedicated to the LGBT equality movement in the United States. It was exciting that our organization was on the forefront of that push, organizing people in the community, getting allies together, and hosting public meetings. President Obama recognized the importance of this site when he designated Stonewall as a national monument in June.
"What is NPCA building next?"
ES: In terms of the work ahead for the remainder of this year, we have a campaign called “Parks in Peril.” A lot of people think that national parks are protected in perpetuity (which they’re supposed to be) but unfortunately, there’s often development pressure encroaching on their borders, which has a huge impact on parks.
So we’re going to be continuing to fight on into the next administration and beyond to protect key national sites like the Mojave Desert in California and Colonial National Historical Park in Jamestown, VA, among others.
We’re also working to protect urban parks. We’re currently pushing for the expansion of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to incorporate more culturally significant sites in Los Angeles. It’s a way to help connect one of America’s largest cities by preserving more natural space and culturally significant sites so residents can have access to a national park right in their backyard.
NPCA also boasts one of the best nonprofit Instagram accounts around. Take a look at some of our favorite shots:
#NPCApicsTakeover: Because @DeathValleyNPS is hot and dry, wildlife sightings aren’t common in the valley during the day. However in winter and spring, Salt Creek is the place to view the endemic #SaltCreek pupfish. Endemic means something is only found in a certain location. These endangered #pupfish are only found in Salt Creek, making them a rare sighting. –SB #DeathValleyNationalPark #everykidinapark #findyourpark #findyourvoice #nationalparks #California #npca #npcapics @sbarm #CAdesert
A photo posted by NPCA (@npcapics) on
#NPCApicstakeover: The paved Pa’rus trail offers many glimpses of this majestic peak, The Watchman. It is one of the more famous views of the park. Standing on this trail, really makes you realize how tiny we are in the world. This photo was captured at one of my favorite secret (well not so secret anymore) spots on the trail. It is about half way down Pa’rus Trail right before you get to the service road. The fields open up and create this beautiful sense of space. Don’t forget your tripod! Do you have a favorite secret spot?~ HL photo: @heatherlongphoto #zionnationalpark #nationalparks #NPS100 #findyourpark #NPCA #keepitwild #findyourvoice #npcapics #optoutside #TrailChat #TakeMeBackpacking #nationalparkgeek #stayandwander #getoutside #ShareTheExperience #thegreatoutdoors #exploreutah #travelwithme #getoutstayout #sheexplores #nikonusa @zionnps
A photo posted by NPCA (@npcapics) on
#NPCApicsTakeover: Our second #nationalpark stop was #MojaveNationalPreserve. We particularly liked the cinder cones, or “baby volcanoes” as Tinsley called them, which were active 10,000 years ago. –SB #everykidinapark #findyourpark #findyourvoice #nationalparks #California #MojaveDesert #cindercones #npca #npcapics @sbarm #CAdesert
A photo posted by NPCA (@npcapics) on
Our EveryAction Hero is a monthly blog series featuring clients that inspire us. Want to talk more about the work we do for NPCA or find out how EveryAction can help your nonprofit? Click here to email Katie!