The National Park Service was formed on August 25, 1916; however, the idea of national parks began many years prior to that. Individuals like John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Albert Bierstadt, William Henry Jackson, and Stephen T. Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service, were some of the most influential proponents of the national parks and their establishment.  The 1916 Organic Act and the agency's mission is in part"....to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." 

 

In 1916 when these guiding management principles were developed, there were only 356,097 people visiting 14 national parks and 23 national monuments. Today, more than 331 million visitors enjoy 417 different park units covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These units include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. They range in size from less than one acre to the 13 million acres of Wrangell St.Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, with only 68,292 visits per year.

 

Although Native Americans knew these places intimately prior to European man's arrival, it was the foresight of certain individuals that saw the need to legally protect these special places from future urbanization and industrial development as had already happened in Europe and the Eastern United States.

 

More about America's Best Idea: The National Parks

http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/watch-video/#762

National Parks: A Truly American Idea!

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