America the beautiful. As Americans, this is a phrase we’ve grown up with and it’s something to say with pride, because come on now- this land really is as stunning as it gets.
We’ve taken the family road trips to protected natural areas across the country—been left speechless from the sights of towering glaciers, found solitude exploring monstrous red rock canyons and experienced the thrill of paddling a monstrous river in the middle of nowhere. But there are many more natural wonders out there equally as beautiful that are not protected and instead, threatened.
Photographer Zack Frank is on a mission to change that with his kick ass Kickstarter project, Undiscovered America. Frank hopes to raise $20,000 to travel to 54 identified sites across the country for six months and snap pictures that will be featured in a unique photography book to help raise awareness about saving these lands.
I chatted with Frank about the overall project, why it is incredibly important to give these sites our attention and how individuals can get involved.
The Clymb: How did the idea for the Undiscovered America project come about?
Zack Frank: I’ve traveled to the National Parks my whole life and I feel that they are the highest examples of our natural environment. However, during these trips I would sometimes go through areas that were just as incredible as the parks, and I had a hard time reconciling why these places were not protected in the same way. Over the last decade I’ve been compiling a list of landscapes that could be potential, future National Parks and decided I could help bring awareness for these sites if I visited each of them and made a photography book showcasing them.
Clymb: How did you choose these places?
ZF: It’s not an exact science, but I tried to pick environments that are relatively unknown, currently unprotected as National Parks, naturally significant, and visually beautiful. Any place unique, and important enough was added to my list.
Clymb: Ultimately, what goals do you want to achieve with this project?
ZF: The goal of this project is simply to raise awareness for amazing landscapes like the Owyhee Canyonlands, Coal Mine Canyon, Bridger Wilderness and Maine North Woods. Hopefully, by spreading awareness, it might educate people on the natural world and inspire them to try to conserve these areas for future generations. Every President since 1890 has created at least one National Park (except Truman and Ford, who did create National Monuments though), so there will very likely be more. I hope I can help to get my generation to realize that the natural world is just important as they feel cities and technology are.
Clymb: What are some of the threats these places face in regards to preservation?
ZF: Some of these places are at risk of being drilled, mined, logged, fracked and developed. While industry is important, we should also be trying to protect the best tracts of land that have not been represented in current conservation efforts. Just as the great plains were mostly altered by the arrival of settlers, smaller Eco regions like the Scablands, Great Lakes, and bayous were largely changed as well. Still, each of those areas have places that can still be made into National Parks before all of the land is altered.
Clymb: Why is it important to raise awareness for the preservation of these specific lands?
ZF: These are endangered landscapes that most people don’t even know are there. Over the last 150 years we’ve done an amazing job elevating some of our natural wonders to iconic status. Everyone knows about Niagara Falls, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon because we’ve made them famous with photos, movies and desktop wallpapers. While we elevated these sites, we also pushed other ones out of our awareness. As a result it makes it easier for companies to exploit areas that are equally impressive as the National Parks, but truly unknown.
Clymb: How can people get involved and donate?
ZF: If anyone interested in nature, photography or conservation could donate a few dollars and tell their friends about this project, it would be funded so quickly and I could expand the project to include additional sites. Being a Kickstarter project, you would get rewards for backing the project like a copy of my photography book, signed photography prints, postcards from the road, and more!