Guest Commentary: Appreciating wild creatures during National Wildlife Week

03-22-2012 // Ann Morgan - Regional Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation's Rocky Mountain Regional Center

This excerpt is from an op-ed appearing in the Denver Post

Our country's public lands have been the subject of many discussions lately, on the campaign trail, in Congress and in state legislatures. More than a century after President Theodore Roosevelt fought to conserve so much of this nation's stunning, wild open spaces, some of those discussions have grown into debates about the value of public lands.

The value is immense — from protecting important watersheds to providing raw materials to providing places to get away from crowds and noise and reconnect to the natural world. All those are important. In honor of National Wildlife Week, we should all stop to think about how vital those public lands are to supporting the flocks, herds, schools and singular creatures with which we share this great Western landscape.

National Wildlife Week, which runs through Sunday, has been celebrated since 1938 as a time to learn about wildlife and nature. We Coloradans are lucky. Often, all we have to do to see wildlife up close is drive a few miles or even walk out our back door. Besides catching sight of a fox, deer or bear wandering through town, Coloradans can watch some of the country's largest deer and elk herds or pronghorn cut through the sagebrush or pause on grassy hillsides. Rural communities, many times in conjunction with state wildlife officials, host organized visits to the elks' mating grounds or the greater sage-grouse or festivals celebrating the migration of snow geese and sandhill cranes.

Surrounded by the abundance of wild creatures, it might be easy to take them for granted. It might be easy to forget what a special part of the country this is, a place where in many places wildlife still has enough room to live and roam like it once did. How many other industrialized countries can boast of such wildlife diversity and numbers?

An even more pertinent question is how much longer will we have those bragging rights?

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Ways to Celebrate National Wildlife Week