As the first of NRPA’s three pillars, conservation is essential to the mission of park and recreation agencies nationwide. Park professionals bear the complex responsibility of being stewards of our parklands while also carrying the weight of creating a more sustainable future. Every day, the dedicated efforts of park and recreation professionals provide education and the promotion of smart environmental practices to the public, as well as the positive stewardship of our natural resources, all of which strengthen the mission of conservation. Each action pushes the cause forward, even if hindered by pushback from the public or extreme budget limitations. This issue, our first annual conservation issue, addresses many of these challenges and provides voice to new responsive ideas.
Across the country, white-tailed deer, ground squirrels, resident Canada geese, raccoons, alligators and beavers are flourishing in our parks. While some view these critters as harmless, others who fear the threat of disease or complain of damages that these species of wildlife cause may wish to address the issues by removing the animals, which can only lead to bad publicity and rifts within the community. On page 44, Rich Dolesh, NRPA’s VP of Conservation and Parks, speaks to the concern for wildlife in our parks and the many issues in dealing with “nuisance” wildlife and educating the public on why their actions can influence the behavior of wildlife.
While touring the parks of Portland Parks and Recreation in Oregon last month, our CEO, Barbara Tulipane, and I had the opportunity to meet some GRUNTs. GRUNTs are teens engaged in a unique hands-on conservation program that also provides job skills, real-life work experience and career paths to hard-to-reach teenagers. On page 54, Peter Magnuson explores the program and the life-changing opportunities afforded to the teens involved.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program, thriving now for more than 40 years, provides education to homeowners and communities to assist in providing habitat for nature’s less celebrated, but equally important species found everywhere from backyards to public parks. A feature on this program, found on page 50, provides an inside look and also speaks to the protection efforts underway for one of America’s favorite songbirds.
Finally, we say farewell to former Managing Editor Elizabeth Beard, who recently left the NRPA staff to pursue other professional opportunities. We wish Beth the best of luck and much happiness in her new endeavors.
Gina Mullins-Cohen is NRPA's Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing.