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These Lands are Your Lands, These Days are Your Days

September 28, 2023 10:11 AM | Anonymous

Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager

Each year, we celebrate National Public Lands Day and National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday in September. On this day, hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers head outside and explore public lands familiar or new to them. Families visit their states’ national parks — free of entry, of course. New generations are introduced to the heritage of hunting, angling, and conservation. The day is rich with American’s utter appreciation for our public lands.

This year was the 51st annual celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day and the 30th annual celebration of National Public Lands Day! 

What started in 1972 with the presidential proclamation, “I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in ensuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations,” has grown into a movement to recruit new hunters and anglers while increasing public awareness of the connection between hunting, angling, and conservation.

Similarly, National Public Lands Day’s 1994 beginnings with one federal agency, two public land sites, and 700 volunteers has grown into a national event that brings out hundreds of thousands of volunteers at sites all over the U.S. Several states, including Arizona (more on that below) even have their own public lands days now.

But these days are not only about volunteering your time for trail maintenance or hunter recruitment. These two holidays that share their birthday each year are about reminding us how much the great outdoors is part of our identities as Americans. These holidays are about actually getting outside and enjoying our public lands! We are encouraged to get out and hunt, hike, fish, climb, explore, camp, and photograph our public lands. 

These lands belong to the American public — you!

With that “ownership” comes responsibility. We are the stewards of these lands and we are responsible for ensuring that our children, their children, and all future generations can experience and enjoy our public lands the way we do today. 

This year, the Arizona Wildlife Federation celebrated these holidays with the launch of our new monthly hikes program. For this inaugural hike on Saturday, September 23rd, we partnered with the Arizona Trails Association and the Tonto National Forest to bring over 20 hikers on an exploration of the Highline trail near Pine. We used iNaturalist to identify flora and fauna of the area and made connections with new people all the way from Tempe to Payson.

Our supporters might remember that we hosted a hike on April 1st, 2023 — which just so happens to be Arizona’s own Public Lands Day holiday! We celebrate Arizona Public Lands Day on the first Saturday of April each year. The bill creating the holiday was drafted in 2019 by a team of conservationists led by our own Brad Powell, Past President of the AWF. 

That hike on Arizona Public Lands Day last April was the inspiration for us to continue hosting monthly hikes for the public. It’s a great opportunity for folks to join us and learn about Arizona’s incredible public lands, native wildlife, and endless recreation opportunities.

These holidays serve as important reminders of all we have to be thankful and responsible for as American citizens. 

It’s also important to remember that on the days we don’t formally celebrate hunting, fishing, or our public lands, we can still get outside, enjoy, and steward our state’s natural resources. What we give any day to the great outdoors, it gives back tenfold. We hope our hikes will keep that thought fresh in our minds each month.

If you would like to join AWF on future hikes, we will be hosting a hike once a month on our state's diverse public lands. Check the events page on our website for upcoming hikes:

Protecting wildlife and their habitats through education, inspiration, advocacy, and action since 1923


Arizona Wildlife Federation

PO Box 1182,  Mesa, AZ 85211
(480) 702-1365


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