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The National Park Service

3-31-17

     The National Park Service began to form during the second half of the 19th century in an isolated territory in northwestern Wyoming. Here, Yellowstone would become America’s very first National Park. Before it was established as federal land, Yellowstone was largely run by businessmen whose only concern was making a profit. Yellowstone National Park was established to protect the beautiful landscape and wildlife from mankind. It was established a whole 44 years before the National Park System was officially born. Throughout this review of the National Park Service, the history, mission and future of this incredible agency will be discussed and examined.


     In 1906, the foundation of the National Park Service was laid by the approval of the Antiquities Act. This act gave President Theodore Roosevelt the power to establish national monuments in order to protect America’s land and wildlife. Roosevelt’s strong passion for the conservation of America’s landscape drove the National Park Service into establishment. By the end of his presidency in 1909, Roosevelt had created 18 national monuments, five national parks, and declared nearly 300,00 square miles of American soil to be under federal preservation.


When discussing the origins of the National Park Service, its history cannot be correctly explained without mentioning the legend John Muir. A conservationist, poet, and excellent rock climber among other things, Muir committed a large part of his life to protecting the great outdoors. Yosemite was basically Muir’s backyard office during the late 19th century. Here, he would study the Sierra Nevada Mountain range of California and all of the unique wildlife the mountains played host to. Muir saw himself as a defender of the voiceless landscapes and wildlife of America. Commercialism was young, and Muir was one of the first to notice the devastation selfish businessmen could bring to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the rest of the United States’ beautiful lands. John Muir wrote beautiful poems about the outdoors and traveled the country in order to share his love for the Sierra Nevada Mountains and other landscapes. By doing this, people joined his cause and helped him in conserving America.


     Another early contributor to the National Park Service was none other than Stephen Mather. An incredibly successful businessman himself, Mather would go on to become the first director of the National Park Service. Mather helped persuade the federal government and the American people for the need of an agency to oversee America’s most beautiful treasures. Thanks to the persistence of men such as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Stephen Mather, the nature loving President Woodrow Wilson was able to sign the Organic Act on August 25 of 1916, which brought the National Park Service into existence. Because of these four men, among many other men and women, there are currently 59 National Parks along with 358 National Monuments, Preserves, Historic Sites, Memorials, Battlefields and more.


     The National Park Service exists for mankind. They were set-aside for people of all backgrounds to enjoy. In the 19th century and early 20th, a rise in commercialism was damaging these gorgeous landscapes. For example, the giant Redwoods in Northern California were being over logged and miners were blasting holes into the side of the Rocky Mountains to find gold. Without the passing of the Antiquities Act of 1906 and Organic Act of 1916, the American people would most likely live in a country where the Grand Canyon would mainly be used to mine Uranium and all of the gigantic beautiful trees in Sequoia National Park would have been wiped out decades ago due to the logging. The landscapes that would of survived heavy commercialism would most likely be owned by sly businessmen that would charge insanely high fees to people wanting to experience them. The National Park System exists to protect the lands from the threats from mankind, but those lands also belong to mankind as our national treasures.


     In 1999, the National Park System Advisory Board collaborated with the National Geographic Society to produce a report that would serve as an outline for rethinking the National Parks for the 21st century. Two years later in 2001 this blueprint for the future of America’s National Parks was completed. In the report, there are eight main points of focus for improving and reinventing the National Park Service and its parks over the next century. Those main goals are building pathways to learning, bringing America’s history alive, protecting nature and ourselves, pursuing and teaching sustainability, nurturing living cultures and communities, promoting outdoor recreation, ensuring institutional capacity and finally shaping the future of the National Park Service. With the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service last year, we saw a major push not only among the federal government but also among American citizens to make these goals become a stronger reality.


     Despite the optimistic report mentioned in the previous paragraph, the National Park Service is currently facing some significant obstacles. On March 28th of 2017, President Donald Trump signed his “energy independence” executive order. This order rolled back regulations set during the Obama era that were established to protect the beautiful federal lands of the United States. This new order by President Trump could negatively affect national parks lands in Texas, Kentucky, Florida and numerous other states. The problem lies in parks where the federal government owns the surface land but energy companies own the underground mineral rights. Currently, 12 of the 42 parks affected by this predicament are already being drilled upon. With Trump’s new executive order this number could rise rapidly, when the number is already way too high. Drilling for oil inside National Parks poses many risks the landscape and wildlife. Manufacturing and the building of drills inside National parks will and has disrupted ecosystems that thousands of different species of wildlife and plants rely on. Drilling inside of these lands also poses the risk of oil spills contamination soil and waters, which would further the disruption of wild ecosystems.

     There is no question that the National Park Service is currently enduring a tough era in its 101st year of existence. The parks have a long and rich beauty that will continue to live on despite current and future obstacles. They will live on because of the hard work of government officials and American citizens that believe in conservation. The National Park Service and the lands it operates were and are created by and for the people, and the people must continue to maintain the county’s beauty and help it improve for future generations.


Sources

-The National Parks Index - https://www.nps.gov//aboutus/upload/npindex2012-2016.pdf

-Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st century - https://www.nps.gov/policy/report.htm

-Preserving Nature in the National Parks by Richard West Sellars

-Our National Parks Policy: A History by John Isne

-The National Park Service: Its History, Activities, and Organization Issue 11 by Jenks Cameron

-“Trump order could ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling in some national parks” written by Stuart Leavenworth of the Miami Herald - http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article141548744.html

-59 Illustrated National Parks by Joel & Nathan Anderson

-Photos property of Library of Congress, National Park Service, and PBS


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