National parks aren’t just pristine forests and wilderness areas, they’re battlefields and important monuments that embody our American heritage. They’re seashores, deserts, valleys, and mountains. They’re cultural and educational sites that remind us of who we are and where we came from. Together, the National Park System provides unparalleled and invaluable educational, natural, historical, cultural, and recreational experiences. Our parks need constant vigilance and protection and should not be taken for granted.

As co-chairs of the Congressional National Parks Caucus, we’re honored to congratulate the representatives and senators who will receive the Friends of the National Parks Award from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

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This year, 228 members of Congress spanning the political spectrum and the nation are being recognized for their support of our National Park System during the 113th Congress (January 2013 to December 2014).

It’s easy to see why there’s broad support for America’s favorite places. In fact, our national parks are some of the most visited destinations in the country and last year national parks received 292.8 million visits, which broke the previous record of 287.2 million visits in 1987.

When people travel to national parks, they stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, shop in local stores, hire guides, and provide other important economic activity in gateway communities. Last year alone, national parks were responsible for supporting 277,000 private-sector jobs and generating nearly $30 billion for our national economy – an increase of nearly $3 billion compared to 2013. Additionally, according to NPCA, every federal dollar invested in national parks becomes $10 for the economy through visitor spending, travel and tourism, and construction jobs.

Just as our monuments commemorate courageous endeavors that have changed our world, we also need to exhibit the courage to stand together to support our national parks during their centennial year, which coincides with the remainder of the 114th Congress. The National Park System’s centennial in 2016 is a historic opportunity for Congress to reaffirm our promise to our forefathers and future generations by leaving our national parks – the sites that embody our American legacy – better than we inherited them.

It is important that we not only support our national parks by visiting and sharing them with our families, friends, and constituents, but that we use our voting power to enhance and preserve them. Let’s mark the National Park System’s 100th anniversary by ensuring national parks have the resources to thrive.

We’re privileged to lead the Congressional National Parks Caucus, and it’s an honor to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and from across the country to protect and enhance our national parks. Congratulations, again, to our fellow Friends of the National Parks Award recipients and we look forward to working together to support our national parks.

Reichert has represented Washington’s 8th Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee. Kind has represented Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District since 1997. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee. Reichert and Kind are co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional National Parks Caucus.