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America’s National Parks’ Anwar Mamon on The Beauty and Importance of National Parks

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America’s National Parks fascinate millions of visitors, and in this spectacular series, it will show you what happens beyond the lookouts. More than 3 years in the making will enable the audience to witness moments full of drama, watch stories of life and death and discover hidden gems they never believed could be found in a place they thought they knew. Follow an epic journey from the geysers of Yellowstone to the rugged Pacific coast of the Olympic peninsula, from the hot desert of Saguaro to the icy Gates of the Arctic, from the subtropical sea of grass in the Everglades to the world-famous peaks of Yosemite and from the mystic Smoky Mountains to the biggest gorge on Earth: The Grand Canyon. America’s National Parks docuseries was created for the Centennial of the National Park Service and will present North America’s natural wonders visitors have never experienced them before.

Narrated by Garth Brooks, each episode starts with a message from first lady Jill Biden about the highlighted national park and how it plays a part in America’s history and will be featured in a PSA reminding current service members and Gold Star families of their free admission to national parks. 

To celebrate this docuseries and to learn more about developing this series, The Koalition spoke to Executive Producer of NatGeo’s America’s National Parks, Anwar Mamon.

The award-winning creative team behind iconic natural history films and series like Disneynature’s “Earth” and “Elephant Eden,” as well as BBC’s “Planet Earth” and “Frozen Planet,” brings you the inspiring series shot using cutting-edge technology, including long-lens cinematography, remote camera traps and the latest high-resolution drone technology. The series captures not only stunning landscapes and frozen moments in time but intimate glimpses into the lives of the charismatic and intriguing animals that inhabit these parks.

“We’re living in a very special time for natural history filmmaking or wildlife filmmaking in that we do have access to technology that allows us to get closer into unseen worlds. [For] example, in our Big Bend National Parks [episode] we’re able for the first time to film Mexican Long-Nosed Bats feeding on the Agave plant because it happens at night. Only by using a low-light camera which has no lighting whatsoever, [and] just moonlight, we are able to quietly [and] successfully film this huge migration of bats, which is an event that happens maybe once or twice a year. It really brings to life that side of their lives.”

“[It] also tells the story that’s important to the National Park, because without the bats feeding, there wouldn’t be any Agave plants and without the Agave plants, Big Bend National Park would be a very, very different landscape. Drones have transformed what we do because we get those amazing different views and also a lot of it is [from] the animal’s view. In this series and being able to get low with gimbals and track certain animals. We used pretty much every tool at our disposal to really try and make the parks come alive.”

Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. With the help of volunteers and partners, they safeguard these special places and share their stories with more than 318 million visitors every year. In America’s National Parks viewers are introduced to an ecosystem that depends on this complex system.

“Everyone involved in the project when it started, we’re all aware of National Parks. Some of them are so iconic. We all know they’re special and so we really wanted to go deeper to look behind the curtain of what everyone might think the Grand Canyon is about and tell a new story that people might not be familiar with. With the Grand Canyon in particular, the fact that it’s got the Kaibab National Forest, this incredibly lush, beautiful forest in the middle of the Grand Canyon with these fantastic squirrels that live there.”

“It was important for us to find animal stories that helped us tell the stories of the landscapes, because National Parks can often become almost victims of their own success. Everyone just gets to know them for one thing or one thing only, but the beauty about America’s National Parks is they are all so diverse because they’re huge. They’ve all got diverse landscapes, diverse weather systems, diverse animal species and it was exciting to be able to unpack that. The way we included human stories was also to spread that message as well. Sometimes human stories are included to show how some of us only visit National Parks and see one percent of what the National Park has to offer, whereas others, like rangers or scientists, get to see a lot more. We really just wanted to give people an intimate view of each National Park like they’ve never seen before.”

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cherished cultural landscapes in the world. Extending from sea level to 13,681 feet, the park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kīlauea and Mauna Loa – and is a designated International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“Hawai‘i Volcanoes in National Parks blew me away when I saw it, because it doesn’t feel like our planet and it’s such an alien landscape with alien-like characters. With that as an example, it was important to show how these places do exist and even somewhere like Hawaii which is accessible. That’s a great thing about America’s National Parks is they are there for everyone. It was great, you could still show there are things on our planet in the United States that science knows very little about, but it’s an important part of the National Parks. We’re all familiar with them but they still have secrets and there are still things we don’t know and there’s a lot more to find out.”

As human activity drives rapid changes to our modern climate, it also impacts our parks. Though unprecedented in size and scope, the National Park Service is rising to the challenge with a comprehensive strategy that emphasizes science, facilitates adaptation that encourages sustainable operations.

“We were very lucky to be able to go to these parts [for] such a long period of time, but over the course of a year to a year and a half of filming, our teams did see [and] experience the unpredictability of weather systems now due to our changing climate. [In the] Big Bend [episode] we were following one beaver, the team got to know that beaver over a long period of time and watched them build their lodge and dam near this river for months and then a freak flash flood came out of nowhere and completely washed it all away. That was a complete surprise.” 

“Those events do happen but they’re happening more regularly and they’re also happening at unusual times. I think we’re seeing that more as an industry as well. When we arrive in the dry season to film, we’ll get there, and it’ll be wet or when we’re in the wet season, we’ll get there, and it’ll be dry. It does make filming more challenging, and it makes it more poignant to us, which is why we’ve included a lot of the stories in America’s National Parks.”

However, “There are things [the everyday person] can do. What we learned over the course of the series is how amazing the parks are protected, but also how they can’t just be protected islands. Everything that happens outside of the park also impacts the park. Take the Mexican Long Nose Bats as an example. They have to migrate over thousands of miles. They need to come to the park and the park needs them to survive. If anything happens to the habitats the bats rely on their journey, then that threatens the park. All we can do is look after our backyards, really look around and make sure we’re doing everything we can to help wildlife by making sure we recycle. We can make sure we look after the environment around us.”

America’s National Parks will air on August 29th. The exquisite and informative five-part Nat Geo documentary series will highlight each Park including their beauty, wonderment and danger in its own episode.

Followed by the Grand Canyon on August 29th, Yosemite on August 30th, Big Bend on August 31st, Badlands on September 1st and wrapping up with Hawai’i Volcanos on September 2nd. In addition to airing on Nat Geo, the entire series begins streaming on Disney+ Aug. 31.

To learn more about America’s National Parks check out our full interview in the video above.

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