Saturday September 26th is National Public Lands Day
The federal government--that is to say, "We, the People"--owns a significant amount of land across the United States, and five agencies tend to control the bulk of the properties, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management of the Department of the Interior, the US Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture, the Army Corps of Engineers (which controls public dams and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
-- National Public Lands Day website
-- map of participating sites and volunteer opportunities
Free entrance to National Parks, Forests and Army Corp of Engineers recreation sites. To recognize the event, the Forest Service ("Forest Service Encourages Participation in Public Lands Day,"), Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Park Service ("Free Entrance Days in the National Parks") will waive entrance fees for the day.
Volunteer opportunities. Many state and national parks and installations have volunteer events on National Public Lands Day. From "Army Corps of Engineers waives fees on National Public Lands Day, Sept. 26":
Last year, more than 16,000 volunteers participated in National Public Lands Day activities at 107 US Army Corps of Engineers lakes. The volunteers cleaned 1,300 miles of shoreline, maintained 143 miles of trails, removed 138,000 pounds of trash, and planted approximately 1,100 trees and shrubs on USACE-managed lands.Locally, in honor of NPLD and the 125th Anniversary of Rock Creek Park, the Rock Creek Park Conservancy is holding one of its regular volunteer activities focused on removing invasive plants.
Public lands issues.
-- underfunding generally ("Parks and Wreck: The Feds Need $11.5 Billion to Fix Our Public Lands," Mother Jones Magazine)
-- massive maintenance backlogs
-- misuse of public lands by errant and miscreant visitors ("National forests seeing increase in vandalism, littering," KSTU-TV: "Woman paints faces defacing 8 national parks including Zion, Canyonlands," St. George News)
-- equity and access issues
-- active vs. passive recreation agendas ("Keep ATVs off Vermont's wildlands," VT Digger)
-- urban appropriate policies for urban lands ("Urban network of public land provides natural, backyard recreation opportunity," Bay City Times) in the public lands portfolio--broad agency agendas tend to be focused on large tracts of land outside urban areas.
-- US Forest Service Urban Connections program
-- Urban Ecology, Environmental Literacy Council
-- "Downtown Coyotes: Inside the Secret Lives of Chicago's Predator," National Geographic
Many Western states resent federal control of lands. Public lands are a particularly contentious issue in the West, where large proportions of states like Utah and Nevada are owned by the federal government. Utah is a state where legislators pass laws directing the federal government to give up its lands in the state ("Utah to seize own land from government, challenge federal dominance of Western states," Washington Times; "The problems with the state movement to take federal land," Center for Investigative Reporting).
According to the CIR article, some of the issue has to do with oil and gas drilling and access to these lands, which is harder to do when they are under federal control and having to take environmental impact into account when considering land use changes, such as drilling.
Innovative planning. Salt Lake County and Millcreek Township in Utah are very close to creating a "Mountainous Planning District" to jointly manage lands located in the canyons of the Wasatch Mountains ("One district to rule them all? Proposal to consolidate land-use planning of Utah canyons hits snag" and "Mountain planning district idea advances after delay," Salt Lake Tribune).