Serenity Now (copy)

This 2014 photo shows hikers arriving near the village of Supai in Havasu Canyon, an off-shoot of the Grand Canyon.

Among the several "do-gooder" organizations I contribute to most every year is the National Parks Conservation Association, which this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The NPCA was founded as a citizen's non-profit to advocate for the many national parks that — it's hard to believe — are regularly under siege. There are private interests who would like to profit by commercializing them and there are those who believe it costs too much to maintain them.

A hundred years ago, many of the parks were new, saved for posterity by visionaries like John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt and the many who came after them. They and hundreds of others saw the importance of saving America's great natural riches forever — land, rivers and lakes that could be enjoyed and marveled by future generations. Because of them, places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, the Smoky Mountains or the Petrified Forest, each with their own distinctive beauty, don't belong to any special interests, but to every American.

What's unique about the NPCA is that it not only raises money for the parks and lobbies Congress to appropriate money to maintain them, but it has established a nationwide network of volunteers who work at or near the parks themselves and advise locals on how they can get involved helping defend them.

Nevertheless, the national parks are near a crisis, despite being visited by more than 300 million people each year. For decades, funding for maintaining the parks' trails and roads, vegetation restoration, wildlife management, controlling invasive species and other costs has been woefully short.

And, unfortunately, it doesn't appear there will be any more help on the way in next year's budget. President Donald Trump's budget for the Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Services — even fire prevention measures — contemplate less money, not more.

The Trump administration's rhetoric following last year's devastating California wildfires was that "decades of poor forest and vegetation management practices" have contributed to deadly and destructive wildfires. But now it proposes to turn around and reduce the allocation for wildland fire management by $28 million.

In all, the budget for the National Park Service would be cut nearly $495 million under Trump's proposals. Perhaps, part of the Make America Great Again campaign?

The good news is that Congress, not the president, will make the final decision on appropriations, which means organizations like the National Parks Conservation Association will have their work cut out for them.

And so will us all. If we want to help ensure the parks that belong to every American are in the shape that nature created and remain accessible for all who want to see them, we need to make sure our members of Congress know how we feel. Sending a few bucks to outfits like the NPCA wouldn't hurt, either.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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