Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Could Dirt, Flora, and Fauna be National Treasures?


What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear, “national treasure?” Perhaps a movie? What next? Merriam-Webster online defines a national treasure as: “something that is greatly valued by the people of a country.”

When researching this subject, not what, but who often appeared at the top. In certain instances, the choices of those individuals were subjective within populations and generations as to who was or is a national treasure.

In the case of what – locations, buildings, structures, and items were in consideration. There was an exhibition of treasures in American history at the Smithsonian that ran from November of 2006 through April 2008. Featured objects in the collection included Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Lewis and Clark’s compass, Edison’s light bulb, Thomas Jefferson’s Bible, and even Kermit the Frog.

For this post, the treasures to which I am referring are more of a natural persuasion. In the United States we have precious gifts of National Forests, National Parks, and Wildlife Management Areas.

National Forest: a usually forested area of considerable extent that is preserved by government decree from private exploitation and is harvested only under supervision (Merriam-webster online).

National Park: an area set aside by a national government for the preservation of the natural environment (Britannica online).

Wildlife Management Area: a wildlife management area is synonymous with a national wildlife refuge (according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service).

Why do these three concepts exist? American conservationists toiled to retain natural environments in the US. This movement surged from 1850 to 1920. The ideas of the national park and forest systems took root (could not resist the pun). The establishment of wildlife refuges is also a part of the legacy. In addition, the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909, Theodore Roosevelt, landed preservation efforts for future generations that extended beyond his terms of office. Nicknamed the “Conservation President” his actions helped establish five national parks. The Antiquities Act of 1906 enables presidents to this day to declare landmarks, structures, and objects as national monuments.

One such national treasure is Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State. We had the pleasure of exploring this beautiful site during optimal weather conditions this fall. Our son's sweet girlfriend suggested this as a hike. We were grateful to spend time with him exploring the mountain trails, observing wildlife, and watching the water meander over rocks and around bends. Lovely. Gorgeous. Awe-inspiring. This land could have been lost to private purposes or development. Instead, it remains a rich resource for visitors to enjoy.

Okanogan-Wenatchee is the largest National Forest in WA, spanning 3.8 million acres. The originally named Wenatchee NF was established in 1908 with headquarters in Leavenworth. That year 150,000 sheep grazed among the trees. By 1909, 60 percent of the sheep in Washington spent summers in this NF. Over the years growth included the creation of Ranger districts, additional employees, new programs, added acreage, and relocated headquarters. There is a lot to offer thanks to over 115 years of combined efforts and expansion.

We visited the Icicle Gorge Trailhead. A miles long and winding gravel road leads visitors to the parking area. After securing a pass for your vehicle, you can enter the trails and choose a direction. We passed people of all ages enjoying the scenery. This day and area were for walking only.

There are multiple opportunities for recreation depending on the location and season. Camping and hiking are popular pastimes. Nearby residents can secure permits to collect firewood and cut down their own Christmas tree. If they carry with them the “free Incidental Use Mushroom Information Sheet,” they may collect up to five gallons of mushrooms for personal use. Commercial permits are also available for firewood and mushrooms. In winter: Mushing/Skijoring, Skiing/Snowboarding, Sledding/Tubing, Snowmobiling, and Cross-country Skiing/Snowshoeing. Imagine all the individuals who have and continue to be blessed by this gift of conservation.


Have you visited a National Forest, National Park, or Wildlife Management Area? Which one and where?

As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as an educator and later as an editor for an online magazine. Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. She serves as the YouVersion Content Creator, with over 112 Plans on the app.

Rebecca lives near the mountains with her husband and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW and FHLCW, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia.

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  1. Happy New Year, Rebecca! Thank you for this wonderful post on our "national treasures." Living in Colorado is like living in a state full of national treasures--Rocky Mountain National Park being only an hour's drive from our doorstep as well as several others in other parts of the state like Mesa Verde National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Also, since my mother's family came from Washington, we used to go to Mt. St. Helen's all the time and have also hiked a little in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State on vacation. It's a beautiful state with several national treasures!

  2. Thank you for posting, and Happy New Year. I have visited Acadia National Park. I'm not sure if I have visited wildlife management areas or not. I agree with you that these wonderful protected areas are indeed national treasures.