National Parks Celebrates its 100th Birthday

National Parks Celebrates its 100th Birthday

July 11, 2016

Yellowstone National Park

July is National Parks & Recreation Month

And next month, on August 25, the United States National Park Service hits the century mark. With over 400 to choose from, NPS invites all people to explore and enjoy the great outdoors with parks, historic monuments, and cultural landmarks.

While discussing the origins of our country’s national parks, there’s one name you absolutely need to know: John Muir. A Scottish immigrant, Muir’s fervent love of nature and profound eloquence when writing about America’s untouched landscapes played a vital role in the establishment of the National Park System. Muir devoted his life to the preservation of the sprawling forests of the western United States. And during the final decades of the 19th century, Muir’s admiration for nature, specifically California’s Yosemite Valley, compelled him to petition Congress for the National Park Bill. This now famous bill eventually passed in 1890 – creating the first official national parks, with Yosemite being the first. 

Concurrent to John Muir’s push for the creation of national parks, another crusader for natural preservation was rising to power: President Theodore Roosevelt. After first visiting the Badlands of South Dakota in 1883, Roosevelt began to voice serious concerns about the decimation and eradication of wildlife taking place in America – blaming society’s seeming impression that our natural resources were inexhaustible. When he became President in 1901, he used his power to ensure that our wildlife and public lands would be preserved. 

During his time in office, Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land by founding the United States Forest Service, creating the Federal Bird Reserve and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act. At the end of his term in 1909, Roosevelt’s impact on conservation was immeasurable, but there was still work to be done. At that time, the National Parks were being managed as individual, unrelated entities. That would soon change. 

Some 26 years after the National Park Bill passed, an American industrialist and conservationist named Stephen Mather noticed the inconsistencies in the management of the national parks. So in 1916, Mather led a publicity campaign to establish a unified agency that would oversee all of the parks. His efforts succeeded. The National Park Service was born. And the following year, Mather became the organization’s first director.  

Over the course of the last century, the National Park Service has rapidly expanded in its breadth and activity. Today, NPS oversees more than 400 units including national parks, monuments, historic sites, shorelines, trails, and preserves – attracting an astounding 280 million visitors each year.

Visit National Parks with free admission August 25–28 in honor of National Park Service's 100th Birthday. Visit to see what parks, trails, and monuments are near you! 

Be sure to tag any photos you share with #findyourpark!

Article Credit: TravelSD

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