On February 26th, 2019, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon is also one of the Wonders of the World, next to The Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. Though the Grand Canyon has been around long before it became a National Park, we have chosen to give you a history lesson in the National Parks Service of the United States.
The first effort of conserving land by the United States as a nation was in 1832 when President Andrew Jackson signed a piece of legislation to set aside four sections of land to create Hot Springs Reservation, Arkansas. Congress failed to protect the land and control development on the area. This led people to settle onto the reserved land as well as build businesses, which was what the legislation was trying to prevent.
Another attempt at land conservation in the United States took place in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln signed an act of Congress bestowing the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoia trees to the state of California. Because of this act, private ownership on these lands was no longer possible and the state of California was to manage the lands for “public use, resort, and recreation.”
The nation’s and the world’s first National Park was not established until 1872, twelve years after Lincoln’s legislation. Yellowstone National Park was the first to be established as a national park and was put under national control- not under the state’s control due to California’s alleged mismanagement of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove. Yellowstone National Park was part of a federally governed territory. The government agreed to let Theodore Roosevelt and his Boone & Crockett Club manage the park, which they did so successfully. They protected the land from poachers and conserved its natural resources and beauty.. Because of their success, laws were designed to conserve the natural resources in Yellowstone, as well as other lands under the federal government’s control.
In 1890, John Muir, who is credited as the “Father of the National Parks,” published two articles that had a lasting impact and formed the base for the National Parks legislation. His articles and activism helped push a bill in 1890 for Congress to establish Yosemite National Park and have the Yosemite Valley come under federal protection.
The National Parks were managed by the Department of Interior, but there was no unified leadership nor regulations to conserve these lands. In 1916, due to the lobbying and activism actions of journalists, businessmen, and nature conservationists, the National Parks Service was established by Congress in the National Park Service Organic Act signed by President Woodrow Wilson. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that consolidated all National Parks, National Monuments, National Military Parks, National Cemeteries, National Memorials, and National Capital Parks into one National Park System. The National Park Service was to oversee all these areas, which led to making the National Park Service solely responsible for all federally owned public parks, monuments, and memorials.
Inspired by American citizens and the actions taken to protect the National Parks, influential people, such as Lady Bird Johnson, and Laurance Rockefeller, lobbied to establish a foundation to further the success and conservation efforts of the National Park Service. In 1967, their efforts paid off and The National Park Foundation was created and chartered by Congress.
Today, NPS's mission is to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife 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.”
Learn more about the National Park Service, visit https://www.nps.gov/index.htm.
If you would like to donate or learn more about the National Park Foundation, visit https://www.nationalparks.org/.