Wake robin trillium are blooming this month in Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Many different people passionately enjoy, value, and protect our public lands. Sometimes they seem so different from each other that it would be impossible for them to agree on anything. But they do agree, and that’s amazing. Their love of the land brings them together, a source of unity in divisive times.

You know how important it can be to get out in Nature — visit a favorite vista, watch the play of a waterfall, touch a giant tree and imagine its history. There’s something about wild places that meets us where we’re at, and sends us home with a full heart. Wilderness makes us better people, and the people that protect wilderness are building a better future.

Deep thoughts like these helped conceive our nation’s public lands, but what actually made public lands possible was national pride. We recognized that our natural heritage lay at the root of national identity. We united as a people to halt the decimation of our homeland. A people need a place, and pride of place is perhaps the purest form of patriotism.

Today we benefit from the foresight of yesterday’s conservation architects. They’ve given us an intact natural heritage with the power to unite communities, regions, and the nation. Now the task before us is preservation of the preservation system itself. As we overcome differences and join together in this shared challenge, we discover a national collaborative spirit that can overcome all difficulties.

Personally I find great inspiration when I spend time in wonder of the South’s wildest places. But if you’ll believe it, I find even greater inspiration when I see people coming together to preserve these places. They’re pioneering the future of public lands, and that takes courage. They’re asking hard questions, and they’re committed to being part of the answer.