The Top 5 things We’re Grateful for This Thanksgiving

Gratitude in Conservation

It’s Thanksgiving season again, time to gather around the table with family and friends and reflect upon the things we are thankful for. And as we fill our tables with turkeys and fixings, we here at the Student Conservation Association have plenty to feel grateful about. Here are five of them:

1. Liz Putnam, Founder of SCA

In 1953, a twenty-year old Vassar College junior named Elizabeth Cushman (now Elizabeth Putnam) was so moved by the Northern Lights she viewed at Grand Teton National Park that she moved against the tide to found our organization. For a woman in the conservative 1950s, it was a formidable task: Liz even had to resort to signing letters to benefactors as “E. Sanderson Cushman” in order to avoid gender bias.

Sixty years later, the Student Conservation Association is a testament to her vision and persistence. In 2010, Liz Putnam became the first conservationist to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal – the nation’s second-highest civilian award – and remains on our Board of Directors as a guiding force.

2. Our Student Participants

Our student participants – some 85,000 to date – constitute the lifeblood of our organization. From preserving our national parks, their work has spread to revitalizing inner cities, tackling climate change, and helping communities recover from natural disasters such as record flooding in Mount Rainer National Park, wildfires in Angeles National Forest, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the New York/New Jersey coast following Hurricane Sandy. Thank you for all you do.

3. The United States Park System

In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the nation’s first national park, Yellowstone. This was followed, in 1916, by the creation of the National Park Service, whose mission was to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

One hundred years later, the Park Service oversees 59 national parks covering more than a million square miles, 27% of the entire land area of the United States and a tenth of the protected land area in the world! No small feat.

4. Our Donors

Philanthropy helped to create our national parks, and it continues to be a vital part of their ongoing preservation. In short, SCA would not be where it is today without our generous donors who believe in conservation and youth service.

In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, we raised nearly $6 million dollars in contributions and private grants, allowing us to operate and expand our conservation programming from coast to coast. And we make sure we put your money to good use: our efficiency ranks among America’s top conservation charities, according to the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator.

5. The American Conservation Movement

From Henry David Thoreau to John Muir, from Teddy Roosevelt to Rachel Carson, American conservationists have struggled to protect our seas, shores, flora and fauna, often having to overcome some very powerful vested interests in the process. This Thanksgiving, we’d like to take a moment, too, to remember those who devoted their lives to leaving us a country whose natural beauty we can be proud off, and whose legacy we must now carry forward.

And finally, we’re grateful to you for taking interest in our work and conservation activities. To stay up to date on our news and activities, please sign up here. And have a happy Thanksgiving!