National parks offer quiet retreat

USA TODAY's article "A holy place big as all outdoors" did a great job exploring the connections between religion and nature (Cover story, Life, March 24).

In counting our blessings, Americans can be grateful that we have so many spectacular places to enjoy. Each of us inherits 623 million acres of national parks, national forests and other public lands. For many people, treasures such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon are our great cathedrals.

World-class recreation — kayaking, camping, fishing, birding, hiking — is what usually comes to mind first when we think about these lands. But there is a long list of benefits, including the spiritual one described. Our public lands clean drinking water for downstream communities, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and generate local jobs because they lure visitors, small-business owners and retirees. They even help us combat climate change by absorbing and storing carbon.

Theodore Roosevelt had it right: "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."