national parks and monuments. The National Park Service, a bureau of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, was established in 1916 to oversee the administration of 40 national parks and monuments under the charge of the department. The National Park System now comprises some 380 areas of scenic, historic, or scientific interest totaling more than 84 million acres (34 million hectares). The units are classified into natural, historical, recreational, and cultural groupings to facilitate park management and to identify areas by their prominent characteristics. The National Park Service has seven regional offices—in Anchorage, Alaska; Atlanta; Denver; Philadelphia; Omaha, Nebr.; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. Instructed by an act of Congress to "conserve the natural and historic objects in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations," the National Park Service has varied responsibilities, directing a wide program of construction in addition to educational and protective work.
Congress laid the foundation of the National Park System in 1872 when it established Yellowstone National Park. It then accelerated expansion of the system in 1906 with the passage of the Antiquities Act, which permitted the president to proclaim national historic landmarks, structures, and "other objects of historic and scientific interest" on federal lands. The authority created by this act has been used by presidents to establish more than 100 national monuments, some of which have since been designated by Congress as national parks. Until 1925, when an act was passed authorizing acceptance of donated land, nearly all of the National Park System was carved from public lands. In 1933 the National Park Service was given trusteeship over areas previously under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture and War depts. Congress has since authorized the preservation of significant historic sites and the establishment of national memorials, national historical parks, national parkways, national lakeshores and seashores, national recreation areas, national military parks and battlefields, national rivers and wild and scenic riverways, national scenic and historic trails, and national preserves. Not all of these areas are managed by the National Park Service, however; some national monuments, for example, are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (see Interior, U.S. Department of the). See the National Parks and Monuments table. See also National Forest System; National Marine Sanctuary Program; wilderness; wildlife refuge.
See publications of the U.S. National Park Service; J. Muir, Our National Parks (1901, repr. 1988); F. E. Allen, Guide to the National Parks of America (1992).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.