Yellowstone will celebrate its 146th birthday as a national park on Thursday March 1. It’s still remarkable that Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 established the world’s first national park at a time when the American West and its original inhabitants were rapidly being subdued, and seemingly every acre of land in the region was slated for settlement and development by newcomers.

In Yellowstone, perhaps for the first time as Americans, we courageously chose stewardship and restraint over conquest and extraction when it came to how we viewed and valued land. This decision has since inspired the U.S. and other nations over the years to set aside more areas worthy of protection and preservation, and today nearly 100 countries have national parks. With a continually burgeoning world population living in urban and suburban areas, though, it’s important to set aside even more of our remaining wild places for current and future generations.

We shall see if that indeed happens. Current leadership for the most part seems to be indifferent at best and rather hostile at worst when it comes to fully funding and protecting our bountiful yet precarious natural heritage. Please let your elected representatives know how vital this matter is to you, and to a healthier future.

Yellowstone and other remaining wild places, regardless of their protected or unprotected status, are not sacrifice zones. They are where we all came from and where we all belong. They belong to all of us and to future generations.

It’s our responsibility to be wise, forward-thinking stewards of these places rather than acquiesce to a powerful few intent on plundering them for short-term profit and personal gain, leaving damaged, severed landscapes in their wake for everyone else to pay for and live with.

We cannot afford to let that happen.

We can all do better. Our ability to live and thrive as part of rather than apart from nature hangs in the balance.

As Henry David Thoreau reminded people years before Yellowstone entered our national consciousness, “The earth I tread on is not a dead, inert mass. It is a body, has a spirit, is organic, and fluid to the influence of its spirit, and to whatever particle of that spirit is in me.”