Some places are so special—because of their value, because of their beauty, because of their history, because of the wildlife they sustain—that they truly belong to all of us. We call these places national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments, state parks, wildlife management areas, and county and city parks and preserves. Each of them, including the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which has been in the news a lot, is held in trust for the benefit and enjoyment of all Americans, and on behalf of the birds and wildlife with whom we share this great world.

Here at Audubon, we know that birds depend on public lands. Public lands are nurseries and wintering grounds and buffet sites during migration for millions upon millions of birds who couldn’t survive without them.

We also know how deeply our members and supporters value public land. We value public lands because we know they provide homes for the birds we love, and we value public lands for the opportunities they give us to enjoy birds and spend time in nature, which restores us and brings us joy.

This idea runs deep in Audubon’s DNA. We worked with Republican President Teddy Roosevelt to establish America’s first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island, Florida, in 1903. Roosevelt went on to establish hundreds of public lands, including Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, which he created with the support of an early Audubon group that became today’s Audubon Society of Portland, one of our largest and most active local chapters.

America’s public lands are America’s treasure. The public employees and volunteers who care for them do a great service to all of us—and to the birds who cannot vote and depend on us for their protection. Our public lands are part of what makes me proud to be an American, and I know that vast majorities of Americans from every conceivable political stripe feel the same way.

When you next visit a refuge, park, or other public land near your home, please celebrate that you have the opportunity and freedom to do so, and don't forget to thank the dedicated staff and volunteers who protect and manage the land and make your visit possible. 

And what do the birds think about public lands? Well, from the trumpeting of Sandhill Crane swarms in the winter to the trilling of colorful warblers in the spring, I like to think America’s birds are saying “thank you.”

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