Preserving Nature’s Gifts

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I love national parks. The green squish of damp moss and the crunch of dry leaves on red dirt. The fleeting glimpse of a shy marsupial and the imposing grandeur of a vast landscape. I enjoy sitting quietly, gazing at trees and ancient rock formations. I love the chatter of excited birds and the sweet smell of pollen in my nose.    

And I am not the only one enraptured. Park visitor numbers are soaring as access to nature-based experiences improve, global travel becomes the norm, and social media spills the beans on pristine natural wonders and hidden gems. 

National parks primarily exist to protect biodiversity, but also deliver other invaluable economic, social, cultural and health benefits to people. Habitats provide safe havens for animals and plants, help to protect water catchments and enable nations to demonstrate actions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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In Australia, the nature-based tourism sector contributes an estimated $23 billion to the economy each year, and worldwide, wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation are considered two of the fastest-growing tourism sectors.

Advances in technology have helped to attract diverse visitors with apps making it easier to locate parks, find and follow walk trails, identify local species and book campsites in advance. 

And we are spoilt for choice on where to go. Digital platforms are overflowing with inspirational images of exotic natural wonders and a new ‘Top 10 places to see before you die’ list seems to emerge every week. But there is a cost to nature going viral. Savvy marketing and social media influence can swell the numbers of visitors to popular spots and drive traffic into undeveloped and sensitive areas. 

Trampling and degradation of the landscape in parts of Tasmania has been blamed on a surge in insta photographers keen to capture iconic shots of thundering waterfalls and picturesque alpine areas. In recognition of the environmental risks, Leave No Trace, an organisation committed to ethics in the outdoor, has released social media guidance to encourage responsible posting. Advice includes disabling GPS geotagging so that the precise location in which a photo is taken can’t be shared. A section on social media is also included in the Natural Resource Management South’s guide to ethical nature photography in Tasmania. 

It’s not all bad though. Digital media can be used for good to spread the word that delicate environments are public assets and encourage citizens to campaign and advocate to protect parks for the enjoyment of future generations. 

While national parks have long been open to the general public for recreational activities, many are not equipped to handle today’s volume of tourists. The great-granddaddy of parks, America’s Yellowstone, was created in 1872 and now hosts around four million people a year. 

With more people comes greater responsibility, demands for infrastructure and mounting environmental challenges. Constant wear and tear require ongoing maintenance and facility upgrades to manage crowding, safety, and human waste. Placing daily limits on the numbers of visitors and increasing park fees are just some of the strategies being used to control volume and generate revenue for necessary services. 

To curb the impact of traffic congestion, Muir Woods has established a parking reservation system that requires all visitors to purchase their spots before arriving. Others like Yosemite and Tongariro National Park encourage the use of public shuttles to reduce the demand on parking and some, like the Bouddi National Park in New South Wales, are serviced by public transport


A key driver of sustainability for national parks is maintaining and increasing visitor interest. However, striking a balance between enhanced experiences, preservation, conservation, and commercialisation can result in controversial policies and divergent views on what constitutes effective modern management of National Parks. 

The decision to allow eco-sensitive accommodation along the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail in Flinders Chase National Park raised concerns for the impact on native vegetation. Similarly, plans for luxury eco-travel options in protected wilderness areas of Queensland and Tasmania have drawn criticism from traditional owners and others concerned about the repercussions of development. 

Influential naturalist, author and environmental philosopher, John Muir, was an early advocate for the preservation of the wilderness. Known as the “Father of the National Parks” he played a significant role in preserving Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park and has inspired millions to appreciate nature’s gifts. 

In honour of John Muir (and our hard-working park managers), take care to travel responsibly in our precious national parks. Leave no trace, watch your step, relax and savour the view.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”– John Muir

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