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Today in History - April 5

National Park Service

Conservationists, civic leaders, and government officials submitted testimony before Congress in favor of the establishment of the National Park Service on April 5 and April 6, 1916.
The parks are the Nation’s pleasure grounds and the Nation’s restoring places…

J. Horace McFarland, president of the American Civic Association, National Park Service. Hearing Before the Committee on Public Lands…, April 5-6, 1916. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, California, Underwood & Underwood, copyright claimant, copyright 1906. By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present
The congressional debate over the proper management of the growing system of national parks began in 1912 and culminated with the passage, in 1916, of the National Park Service Act. This legislation created the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior. Stephen T. Mather was named its first director. In making his case for the agency, Richard B. Watrous, Secretary of the American Civic Association, recalled the rationale made by Secretary of the Interior Richard A. Ballinger in 1910. “In order that creditable progress may be made in each of the national parks,” Ballinger had written:
liberal appropriations will be required…to create a bureau of national parks and resorts, under the supervision of a competent commissioner, with a suitable force of superintendents, supervising engineers, and landscape architects, inspectors, park guards, and other employees.

Richard B. Watrous, Secretary of the American Civic Association, National Park Service. Hearing Before the Committee on Public Lands…, April 5-6, 1916. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920

Others pointed to the long-term economic benefits likely to accrue from the efficient investment in and management of the national parks. When it was established on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service (NPS) supervised 40 national parks and monuments in some 390 areas. It now includes 390 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state except Delaware, as well as in the District of Columbia, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NPS sites—not only national parks and monuments—but also battlefields, military parks, historic sites, recreation areas, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores and seashores, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House, attract hundreds of millions of visitors each year.
Map of Yellowstone Park Showing Proposed Railroad Line and Hotels, circa 1900. Mapping the National Parks in Map Collections
Lake McDonald, Glacier Park, Montana, copyright 1915. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

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