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The National Park Service (NPS) is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. It was created on August 25, 1916, by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act.

It is an agency of the United States Department of the Interiormarker, a federal executive department whose head, the Secretary of the Interior, is a Cabinet officer nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Most of the direct management of the NPS is delegated by the Secretary to the National Park Service Director, who must now also be confirmed by the Senate.

The 21,989 employees NPS oversee units, of which 58 are designated national parks.


In 1916, a portfolio of nine major parks were published to generate interest.
Printed on each brochure was a map showing the parks and principal railroad connections.
National parks and national monuments in the United States were originally individually managed under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. The movement for an independent agency to oversee these federal lands was spearheaded by business magnate and conservationist Stephen Mather, as well as J. Horace McFarland. With the help of journalist Robert Sterling Yard, Mather ran a publicity campaign for the Department of the Interiormarker. They wrote numerous articles that praised the scenic qualities of the parks and their possibilities for educational, inspirational, and recreational benefits. This campaign resulted in the creation of a National Park Service. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that mandated the agency "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." Mather became the first director of the newly formed NPS.

In 1934, a series of ten postage stamps were issued to commemorate the reorganization and expansion of the National Park Service.
On March 3, 1933, President Herbert C. Hoover signed the Reorganization Act of 1933. The act would allow the President to reorganize the executive branch of the United States government. It wasn't until later that summer when the new President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, made use of this power. Deputy Director Horace M. Albright had suggested to President Roosevelt that the historic sites from the American Civil War should be managed by the National Park Service, rather than the War Department. President Roosevelt agreed and issued two Executive orders to make it happen. These two executive orders not only transferred to the National Park Service all the War Department historic sites, but also the national monuments managed by the Department of Agriculture and the parks in and around the capital, which had been run by an independent office.

In 1951, Conrad Wirth became director of the National Park Service and went to work on bringing park facilities up to the standards that the public expected. The demand for parks after the end of the World War II had left the parks overburdened with demands that could not be met. In 1952, with the support of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, he began Mission 66, a ten-year effort to upgrade and expand park facilities for the 50th anniversary of the Park Service. New parks were added to preserve unique resources and existing park facilities were upgraded and expanded.


Jon Jarvis, NPS Director

Name Term of Office
Start End
1 Stephen Mather May 16, 1917 January 8, 1929
2 Horace M. Albright January 12, 1929 August 9, 1933
3 Arno B. Cammerer August 10, 1933 August 9, 1940
4 Newton B. Drury August 20, 1940 March 31, 1951
5 Arthur E. Demaray April 1, 1951 December 8, 1951
6 Conrad L. Wirth December 9, 1951 January 7, 1964
7 George B. Hartzog, Jr. January 9, 1964 December 31, 1972
8 Ronald H. Walker January 7, 1973 January 3, 1975
9 Gary Everhardt January 13, 1975 May 27, 1977
10 William J. Whalen July 5, 1977 May 13, 1980
11 Russell E. Dickenson May 15, 1980 March 3, 1985
12 William Penn Mott, Jr. May 17, 1985 April 16, 1989
13 James M. Ridenour April 17, 1989 January 20, 1993
14 Roger G. Kennedy June 1, 1993 March 29, 1997
15 Robert Stanton August 4, 1997 January 2001
16 Fran P. Mainella July 18, 2001 October 15, 2006
17 Mary A. Bomar October 17, 2006 January 20, 2009
18 Jonathan Jarvis September 24, 2009 incumbent

National Park System

National Park System is a term that describes the collection of all units managed by the National Park Service. The title or designation of a unit need not include the term park; indeed, most do not. The system encompasses approximately 84.4 million acres (338,000 km²), of which more than 4.3 million acres (17,000 km²) remain in private ownership. The largest unit is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preservemarker, Alaska. At 13,200,000 acres (53,000 km²), it is over 16 percent of the entire system. The smallest unit in the system is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorialmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, at 0.02 acre (80 m²).

The National Park System (NPS) includes all properties managed by the National Park Service (also, confusingly, "NPS"). The System as a whole is considered to be a national treasure of the United States, and some of the more famous national parks and monuments are sometimes referred to metaphorically as "crown jewels."

In addition to administering its units and other properties, the National Park Service also provides technical and financial assistance to several "affiliated areas" authorized by Congress. The largest affiliated area is New Jersey Pinelands National Reservemarker at 1,164,025 acres (4711 km²). The smallest is Benjamin Franklin National Memorialmarker at less than one hundredth of an acre.

Although all units of the National Park System in the United States are the responsibility of a single agency, they are all managed under individual pieces of authorizing legislation or, in the case of national monuments created under the Antiquities Act, presidential proclamation. For example, because of provisons within their enabling legislation, Congaree National Parkmarker is almost entirely wilderness area, yet Yosemite allows unique developments such as the Badger Pass Ski Areamarker and the O'Shaughnessy Dammarker within its boundaries. Death Valley National Parkmarker has an active mine legislated within its boundaries. Such irregularities would not be found in other parks unless specifically provided for by the legislation that created them.

Many parks charge an entrance fee ranging from US$3 to $25 per week. Visitors can buy a federal interagency annual pass, known as the "America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass," allowing unlimited entry to federal fee areas (USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation) for $80 per year. This pass applies to entry fees only. Other applicable fees, such as camping, and backcountry access, still apply. U.S. citizens who are 62+ years old may purchase a version with the same privileges for $10, and citizens with permanent disabilities may receive a free version.

National Parks

Since its inception in 1916, the National Park Service has managed each of the United States' national parks, which have grown in number over the years to 58.

Yellowstone National Parkmarker was the first national park in the world. In 1872, there was no state government to manage it, so the Federal Government assumed direct control. Yosemite National Parkmarker began as a state park; the land for the park was donated by the Federal Government to the State of Californiamarker in 1864 for perpetual conservation. Yosemite was later returned to Federal ownership.

At first, each national park was managed independently, with varying degrees of success. In Yellowstone, the civilian staff was replaced by the U.S.marker Armymarker in 1886. Due to the irregularities in managing these national treasures, Stephen Tyng Mather petitioned the Federal Government to improve the situation. In response, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane challenged him to lobby for creating a new agency, the National Park Service, to manage all national parks and some national monuments. Mather was successful with the ratification of the National Park Service Organic Act in 1916. Later, the agency was given authority over other protected areas, many with varying designations as Congress created them.

National Park Service holdings

For current specifics and a multitude of information, see the Quick Facts section of the NPS website.
Type Amount
Acres of Land
Acres of oceans, lakes, reservoirs
Miles of perennial rivers and streams
archeological sites
miles of shoreline
historic structures
objects in museum collections


Parks may be established in either of two ways: by an act of Congress or by an Executive order of the President under the Antiquities Act. Most have been established by an act of Congress with the President confirming the action by signing the act into law. Regardless of the method used, all parks are to be of national importance.

A potential park should meet all four of the following standards:
  • It is an outstanding example of a particular type of resource.
  • It possesses exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the natural or cultural themes of our Nation's heritage.
  • It offers superlative opportunities for recreation, for public use and enjoyment, or for scientific study.
  • It retains a high degree of integrity as a true, accurate, and relatively unspoiled example of the resource.

Budget of the National Park Service

The National Park Services budget is divided into two primary areas, discretionary and mandatory spending. Within each of these areas, there are numerous specific purposes to which Congress directs the services activities.

Discretionary Spending

NPS Operations of the National Parks budget from FY 2001-FY 2006
spending includes the Operations of the National Parks (ONPS), where all park operations are paid from. The United States Park Police funds cover the high profile law enforcement operations at some of the large parks; i.e., Gateway National Recreation Area, Golden Gate National Recreation Areamarker, and the National Mallmarker. The National Recreation and Preservation Program and the Urban Park and Recreation Fund are outreach programs to support state and local outdoor recreational activities..

Mandatory Spending

Mandatory Appropriations are those items created by other congressional legislation that must be paid for. They include the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program, which requires the distribution and expenditure of fees collected by the National Park Service. Other Permanent Appropriations includes special funding categories to non-profit and state entities, which have been assigned to the National Park Service to manage. Misscellaneous Trust Funds includes funding sources that have been created by the Federal Government or private citizen, where the National Park Service or a specific park have been identified as the beneficiaries. An there is also the L&WCF Contract Authority which is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a congressionally created source of revenues, managed by the National Park Service..

Nomenclature of the National Park System

The National Park Service uses over 20 different titles for the park units it manages. The best known are national park and national monument.

Classification as of 2003 Number Acreage
National Military Park, National Battlefield Park, National Battlefield Site, and National Battlefield
National Historical Park, National Historic Site, and International Historic Site
National Lakeshore
National Memorial
National Monument
National Park
National Parkway
National Preserve and National Reserve
National Recreation Area
National River and National Wild and Scenic River and Riverway
National Scenic Trail
National Seashore
Other Designations (White House, National Mall, etc)

National Parks include a range of superb natural and cultural wonders. The first national park was Yellowstone National Parkmarker in 1872.

National Monuments preserve a single unique cultural or natural feature. Devils Tower National Monumentmarker was the first in 1906.

National Historic Sites protect a significant cultural resource that is not a complicated site. Examples of these types of parks include Ford's Theatremarker National Historic Site and William Howard Taft National Historic Sitemarker.

National Historical Parks are larger areas with more complex subjects. Appomattox Court Housemarker National Historical Park was created in 1940. George Rogers Clark National Historical Parkmarker was dedicated in 1936. Historic sites may also be protected in national parks, monuments, seashores, and lakeshores.

National Military Parks, Battlefield Parks, Battlefield Sites, and Battlefields preserve areas associated with military history. The different designations reflect the complexity of the event and the site. Many of the sites preserve important Revolutionary War battles and Civil War battlefields. Military parks are the sites of larger actions, such as Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Parkmarker, Vicksburg National Military Parkmarker, Gettysburg National Military Parkmarker, and Shiloh National Military Parkmarker—the original four from 1890. Examples of battlefield parks, battlefield sites, and national battlefields include Richmond National Battlefield Parkmarker, Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Sitemarker, and Antietam National Battlefieldmarker.

National Seashores and National Lakeshores offer preservation of the national coast line, while supporting water–based recreation. Cape Hatteras National Seashoremarker was created in 1937. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshoremarker and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshoremarker, created in 1966, were the first national lakeshores.

National Recreation Areas originally were units (such as Lake Mead National Recreation Areamarker) surrounding reservoirs impounded by dams built by other federal agencies. Many of these areas are managed under cooperative agreement with the National Park Service. Now some national recreation areas are in urban centers, because of the recommendations of a Presidential commission, the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC). These include Gateway National Recreation Area and Golden Gate National Recreation Areamarker, which encompass significant cultural as well as natural resources.

National Rivers and Wild and Scenic Riverways protect free-flowing streams over their length. The riverways may not be altered with dams, channelization, or other changes. Recreational pursuits are encouraged along the waterways. Ozark National Scenic Riverwaysmarker was established in 1964.

The National Trails System preserves long-distance routes across America. The system was created in 1968 and consists of two major components: National Scenic Trails are long-distance trails through some of the most scenic parts of the country. They received official protection in 1968. The Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail are the best known. National Historic Trails commemorate the routes of major historic events. Some of the best known are the Trail of Tears, the Mormon Trail, and the Santa Fe Trail.

National Preserves are for the protection of certain resources. Activities like hunting, fishing, and some mining are allowed. Big Cypress National Preservemarker and Big Thicket National Preservemarker were created in 1974 as the first national preserves.

National Reserves are similar to national preserves, but the operational authority can be placed with a local government. City of Rocks National Reservemarker was the first to be established in 1988.

Visitors to the National Parks

400 px
]The National Park System receives over 270,000,000 visitors each year through out the 392 units. Annually, visitors are surveyed for their satisfaction with services and facilities provided.

The ten most visited units of the National Park System handle thirty percent of the visitors to the 392 park units. The top ten-percent of parks (39) handle 61.2% of all visitors, leaving the remaining 352 units to deal with 38.8% of visitors.

Park Rank Visitors
Blue Ridge Parkwaymarker
Golden Gate National Recreation Areamarker
Gateway National Recreation Area
Great Smoky Mountains National Parkmarker
Lake Mead National Recreation Areamarker
George Washington Memorial Parkwaymarker
Natchez Trace Parkway
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Areamarker
Lincoln Memorialmarker
Cape Cod National Seashoremarker

Overnight StaysOver 13.8 million visitors spent a night in one of the National Park Units during 2008. The largest number (3.59 million) stayed in one of the lodges. The second largest group were tent campers (2.96 million) followed by Miscellaneous stays (on boats, group sites—2.06 million). The last three groups of over-night visitors included RV Campers (2.01 million), Back country campers (1.80 million) and users of the Concession run campgrounds (1.22 million). Over the last 30 years the largest change has been with RV users.

Park 2009 Rank 1994 Rank 1979 Rank
RV Campers
Tent Campers
Concession Campers

ServicesConsistently, the highest ranked service has been Assistance from Park Employees (82% very good, 2007).

FacilitiesAmong facilities, the park Visitor Centers obtain a consistent 70% very good rating (73% in 2007).


In an effort to increase visitation and allow for a larger audience to enjoy national park land, the National Park Service has numerous concession contracts with private businesses to bring recreation, resorts and other compatible amenities to their parks. NPS lodging opportunities exist at places such as the Wawona Hotelmarker in Yosemite National Parkmarker and the Fort Bakermarker Retreat and Conference Center in Golden Gate National Recreation Areamarker. "Adaptive reuses" like those at Fort Baker, have raised some controversy, however, from concerns about the historical integrity of these buildings, after such extensive renovations and whether such alterations fall within the spirit and/or the letter of the preservation laws they are protected by.

Cooperators, i.e., Bookstores

At many Park Service sites a bookstore is operated by a non-profit cooperating association. The largest example is Eastern National, which runs bookstores in 30 states with 178 stores.

Park specific:

Publisher of National Parks Interpretive Books

Books written by individual National Park interpreters or experts on specific parks are published for each park by:


Headquarters are located in Washington, D.C.marker, with regional offices in Anchoragemarker, Atlantamarker, Lakewood, COmarker (Denvermarker), Omaha, NEmarker, Oakland, CAmarker, Philadelphiamarker and Seattlemarker. The headquarters building of the National Park Service Southwest Regional Officemarker is architecturally signicant and is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Working in a National Park Unit

Employees of the National Park Service

Book on Becoming a Park Ranger
150 px
middle 1950s, the primary employee of the Service was the Park Ranger and they did everything that was needed in the parks. They cleaned up trash, operated heavy equipment, fought fires, managed traffic, cleared trails and roads, provided information to visitors, managed museums, performed rescues, flew aircraft, and investigated crime.

By the 21st Century, the demands of the service required specialists. Today, there are more than eighteen career paths in the service:

National Park Service employment levels.
Executives: abt 27; Gen Sch: 16-17,000; Others: 6-7,000

In addition, many seasonal workers are hired to handle the increased need for interpretive rangers during the busy summer months.

Locations are varied. Parks exist in the nation's larger cities like New York Citymarker (Federal Hallmarker Memorial National Historic Site), Atlantamarker (Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Sitemarker), and San Diegomarker (Cabrillo National Monumentmarker) to some of the remotest areas of the continent like Hovenweep National Monumentmarker in southeastern Utah, to Aniakchak National Monumentmarker in King Salmon, Alaskamarker.

Volunteers in Park (VIP)

The Volunteer-in-Parks program was authorized in 1969 by the Volunteers in the Parks Act of 1969. for the purpose of allowing the public to serve in the nations parks providing support and skills for their enhancement and protection.

Volunteers come from all walks of life and perform many varied and exciting duties. Many volunteers come from the surrounding communities and include professionals, artists, laborers, homemakers and students. Some volunteers travel significant distances to reach the park where they wish to provide services. In the 2005 annual report (most current report available), the National Park Service reported:

. . . 137,000 VIPs contributed 5.2 million hours of service (or 2500 FTEs) valued at $91,260,000 based on the private sector value figure of $17.55 as used by AARP, Points of Light Foundation, and other large-scale volunteer programs including many federal agencies. There are 365 separate volunteer programs throughout the National Park Service. Since 1990, the number of volunteers has increased an average of 2% per year.
  • FTE = Full Time Equivalency (1 work year)

Types of work performed

Examples of the work performed can range from an individual working at an information desk to a team painting a park building. Work ranges from designing computer programs, taking photographs to preparing and giving environmental programs. Examples from the 2005 Annual report:
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Areamarker

Boston Harbor Islands engaged volunteers in three scientific monitoring projects: bird nesting counts, invasive crab counts, and invasive plant removal. This effort is paving the way for another study on collecting data for scientists at Harvard to conduct an all biodiversity inventory of invertebrates.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Sitemarker

Fort Vancouver Volunteer Program Highlight came later in the fiscal year. Interpreting a large span of history, 20 volunteers came on board to update and upgrade the park’s Period Clothing Program. The Period Clothing Program includes clothing from the 1820s to the early 1900s; men, women, and children, as well as varying classes that are interpreted at Fort Vancouver. Period clothing examples include metis (a mix between European and Native heritage), blacksmith laborers, Oregon Trail Pioneers, and Civil War Uniforms. The Program also includes the appropriate accessories to make the persona come to life as they interpret Fort Vancouver’s History.
Everglades National Parkmarker

Ten students from Tulane University came to Everglades NP to volunteer for a full week. They removed an invasive tree species and planted Slash Pines for a pineland and wetland prairie restoration project. They also collected debris along waterways, cleared trails, and carried out campground maintenance chores. In FY05, eight Alternative Break groups from colleges nationwide volunteered in the Everglades. They contributed much time and energy, completing a variety of maintenance, roads and trails, research, and Resource Management projects.
War In The Pacific National Historical Parkmarker

Park volunteer Toni Ramirez has been heavily involved at both the War in the Pacific NHP and the American Memorial Park in coordinating special events and historical and cultural research. For the last three years, Toni has served as a member of the American Memorial Park Content Review Committee assisting the Chief of Interpretation in exhibit planning for the new Visitor Center.
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Sitemarker

Vanderbilt Mansion’s highlight for FY05 has to be the number of hours contributed by one volunteer this year, Doris Mack, who gave 566 hours to the Eleanor Roosevelt NHS. Doris is an amazing woman who devotes two days a week to Mrs. Roosevelt’s home, Val-Kill, and even volunteers for the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill once or twice a month. Doris delights her groups with personal stories of Mrs. Roosevelt; the visitors can’t get enough of her. She makes all feel welcome as Eleanor Roosevelt would have wanted. She is a treasure to this site and those that work with her enjoy every minute of it.
Pipestone National Monumentmarker

Pipestone NM hosted five volunteers from the local community who assisted in collection of grass seeds from the native tallgrass prairie. One of the volunteers was the editor of the local newspaper, who then printed a story on his experience at the park.

Applying as a VIP

There are several ways to apply. Twelve bureaus of the U.S. Government have a joint web-site, called America's Natural & Cultural Resources for registering as a volunteer. The bureaus include the Corps of Engineers (COE), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Coopeartive State Research and Education Extension Service (CSREE), and the Take Pride in America agency


Across the nation, there are special opportunties for artists (visual artists, photographers, sculptors, performers, writers, composers, and crafts) to live and work in a park. Twenty-nine parks currently participate in the Artist-In-Residence program.


As noted above, numerous Concessions operate lodging, gas stations, restaurants, and gift shops. Each offers an opportunity to work in a national park.

Special divisions

Historic Preservation Training Center

The United States Park Police is a distinct law enforcement division of the National Park Service, with jurisdiction in all NPS sites, but primarily used in the Washington, D.C.marker metropolitan area, New York City and the Golden Gate National Recreation Areamarker, in and around San Franciscomarker. Law enforcement services in other NPS units are provided by specially commission park rangers. Other special NPS divisions include the Archeology Program, Historic American Buildings Survey, National Register of Historic Places, National Natural Landmarks, the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, the Challenge Cost Share Program, the Federal Lands to Parks, the Hydropower Relicensing Program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Trails System and the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.

Park Police

The United States Park Police (USPP) is the oldest uniformed federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It functions as a full service law enforcement agency with responsibilities and jurisdiction in those National Park Service areas primarily located in the Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and New York City. In addition to performing the normal crime prevention, investigation, and apprehension functions of an urban police force, the Park Police are responsible for policing many of the famous monuments in the United States and share law enforcement jurisdiction in all lands administered by the Service with a force of National Park Rangers tasked with the same law enforcement powers and responsibilities.


The National Park Service operates four archeology-related centers: Harpers Ferry Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the Midwest Archeological Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Southeast Archeological Center in Tallahassee, Florida and the Western Archeological and Conservation Center in Tucson, Arizona. The Harpers Ferry Center specializes in interpretive media development and object conservation. The other three focus to various degrees on archaeological research and museum object curation and conservation.

National Park Service-Training Centers include: Horace Albright Training Center, Grand Canyon; Stephen Mather Training Center, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Historic Preservation Training Center, Frederick, Maryland and Capital Training Center, Washington, D.C.

The Submerged Resources Center is the unit responsible for the submerged areas throughout the National Park system. The SRC is based out out of the Intermountain Region's headquarters in Lakewood, CO.

Preservation programs (HABS/HAER)

Photograph of El Santuario Del Señor Esquipula, Chimayo, New Mexico
LaSalle Street Bridge, Chicago, Illinois
200 px

The oldest Federal preservation program, the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER), produces graphic and written documentation of historically significant architectural, engineering and industrial sites and structures. Dating from 1934, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was chartered to document historic architecture—primarily houses and public buildings—of national or regional significance. Originally a New Deal employment/preservation program, after World War II, HABS employed summer teams of advanced undergraduate and graduate students to carry out the documentation, a tradition followed to this day. Many of the structures they documented no longer exist.

HABS/HAER produces measured drawings, large-format photographs and written histories of historic sites, structures and objects, that are significant to the architectural, engineering and industrial heritage of the U.S. Its 25,000 records are part of the Library of Congress. HABS/HAER is administered by the NPS Washington office and five regional offices.

Historic American Building Survey

In 1933, the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, established the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), based on a proposal by Charles E. Peterson, Park Service landscape architect. It was founded as a make-work program for architects, draftsmen and photographers left jobless by the Great Depression. Guided by field instructions from Washington, D.C., the first recorders were tasked with documenting a representative sampling of America's architectural heritage. After 70 years, there is now an archive of historic architecture. HABS provided a database of primary source material for the then fledgling historic preservation movement.

Historic American Engineering Record

Recognizing a similar fragility in our national industrial and engineering heritage, the National Park Service, the Library of Congress and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) formed the HAER program in 1969, to document nationally and regionally significant engineering and industrial sites. A short while later, HAER was ratified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME). HAER documentation, in the forms of measured and interpretive drawings, large-format photographs and written histories, is archivally preserved in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, where it is readily available to the public.

Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program

The RTCA program of the National Park Service is designed to assist local communities and the public in preservation of rivers, trails and greenways. Unlike the mainline National Park Programs, these programs take place on non-federal property at the request of the local community. One of their better known programs is Rails to Trails, where unused railroad right-of-ways are converted into public hiking and biking trails.

National Trails System

The National Trails System is a joint mission of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. It was created in 1968 to create a system of national trails. The system now consist of two groups, the National Scenic Trails and the National Historic Trails.

National Scenic Trails

National Historic Trails

National Heritage Areas

National Heritage Areas are a unique blend of natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources. Having developed out of a shared historic, they create a unique whole.

World Heritage Sites

World Heritage Sites have enough universally recognized natural and cultural features that they are considered to merit the protection of all the peoples in the world. The National Park Service is responsible for 16 of the 19 World Heritage Sites in the United States.

The following sites are not managed by the National Park Service:


  • 24-hr all Taxa BioBlitz: A joint venture of the National Geographic Societymarker and the National Park Service. Beginning in 2004, at Rock Creek Parkway, the National Geographic Society and the National Park Serivce began a 10-year program of hosting a major biological survey of ten selected national park units. The intent is to develop public interest in the nations natural resources, develop scientific interest in America's youth and to create citizen scientist.
  • Biological Diversity: Biological Diversity is the vast variety of life as identified through species and genetics. This variety is decreasing as people spread across the globe, altering areas to better meet their needs.
  • Climate Change: Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global sea levels. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007).
  • South Florida Restoration Initiative: Rescuing an Ecosystem in Peril: In partnership with the State of Floridamarker, and the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service is restoring the physical and biological processes of the South Florida ecosystem. Historically, this ecosystem contained some of the most diverse habitats on earth.
  • Vanishing Treasures Initiative: Ruins Preservation in the American Southwest: The Vanishing Treasures Initiative began in FY 1998 to reduce threats to prehistoric and historic sites and structures in 44 parks of the Intermountain Region. In 2002, the program expanded to include three parks in the Pacific West Region. The goal is to reduce backlogged work and to bring sites and structures up to a condition where routine maintenance activities can preserve them.
  • Wetlands: Wetlands includes marshes, swamps, and bogs. These areas and the plants and animals adapted to these conditions spread from the arctic to the equator. The shrinking wetlands provide habitat for fish and wildlife, help clean water and reduce the impact of storms and floods on the surrounding communities.
  • Wildland Fire: Fires have been a natural part of park eco-systems. Many plants and some animals require a cycle of fire or flooding to be successful and productive. With the advent of human intervention and public access to parks, there are safety concerns for the visiting public.


  1. Hetch Hetchy Valleymarker, in Yosemite National Parkmarker was dammed in 1923 after a controversial effort by the City of San Franciscomarker to expand its water supply after the 1906 earthquake.
  2. The Stoneman Meadow Riot... on July 4, 1970, overcrowding in Yosemite Valley led to a clash between Park Rangers and anti-war demonstrators. Sources conflict on the cause and who was involved. Accordingly, to one source, it was 'young people' responding to a curfew and noise complaints. Another source says that it was the result of a motorcycle group arriving and finding no campsites available, chose to camp in Stoneman Meadow, which had been protected for the life of the park from vehicles and off trail use. The mob dragged mounted Rangers off their horses, and overturned the Mariposa Sheriff's squad car. Shots were fired. The riot led to more than a hundred arrests, several injuries, and great destruction of property – and changes to Park Service access policies and training practices.
  3. Yellowstone fires of 1988marker at Yellowstone National Parkmarker, Wyomingmarker, Montanamarker and Idahomarker.
  4. Cerro Grande Fire of 2000 at Bandelier National Monumentmarker, New Mexicomarker


The large, isolated parks typically generate their own electricity and heat and must do so without spoiling the values that the visitors have come to experience. There is the pollution emitted by the vehicles used to transport visitors around the often-vast expanses of the parks. Many parks have converted vehicles to electric hybrid, substitute diesel/electric hybrid buses for private automobiles. Replacement with electric vehicles would eliminate these (25 TPY) emissions entirely.

Regulatory Impacts

See also


  1. Budget Justifications and Performance Information, Fiscal Year 2008, National Park Service
  2. Sutter, p. 102
  3. Sutter, p. 104
  4. Albright, Horace M. as told to Robert Cahn; The Birth of the National Park Service; The Founding Years, 1913-33; Howe Brothers, Salt Lake City, Utah; 1985.
  5. The National Parks: Shaping the System; National Park Service, Dept of the Interior; 1991; pg 24
  6. pg 62
  7. Press Release: Director Bomar To Retire On Tuesday; Dave Barna, Press Office, National Park Service; January 15, 2009
  8. Jonathan Jarvis Confirmed As Director, By Hugh Vickery, September 25, 2009.
  9. Lee, Ronald F.; Family Tree of the National Park System; Eastern National Parks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1972; pg 9-12
  10.| America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass
  11. National Park Service Organic Act
  12. National Park Service, 2008 Director's Report; National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior; Washington, D.C.; 2009
  13. Criteria for Parklands brochure; Department of the Interior, National Park Serivce; 1990
  14. FY 2006 President’s Budget, Executive Summary; National Park Service; Government Printing Office; February 7, 2005
  15. The National Parks: Index 2009–2011, Official Index of the National Park Service, Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.; 01/03/2009
  17. Statistical Abstract 2008; National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior; National Park Service Social Science Program; Denver, Colorado; 2009
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