The title of this page is History in the National Park Service
Links to the PastSearchNational Park Service identification
Return to the National Park Service's History homepage
National Park Service History
National Park Service Online Books
National Park Service Historical Themes
National Park Service Maritime History
National Park Service Research and Education

This is an image of Joshua Trees and rock outcrop at Joshua Tree National Park, Twenty Nine Palms, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

FAMOUS QUOTES CONCERNING THE NATIONAL PARKS

AN ACT TO IMPROVE THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM

(General Authorities Act), 1970 (84 Stat. 825):

"...that the national park system, which began with establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every major region of the United States...; that these areas, though distinct in character, are united through their inter-related purposes and resources into one national park system as cumulative expressions of a single national heritage; that, individually and collectively, these areas derive increased national dignity and recognition of their superb environmental quality through their inclusion jointly with each other in one national park system preserved and managed for the benefit and inspiration of all the people of the United States...."

Stephen T. Mather, NPS Director, 1917-1929:

"The parks do not belong to one state or to one section.... The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona."

"Who will gainsay that the parks contain the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health? A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness.... He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks."

Newton B. Drury, NPS Director, 1940-1951:

"The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of the necessities of existence. If it means anything, it means that America presents to its citizens an opportunity to grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. The National Park System and the work of the National Park Service constitute one of the Federal Government's important contributions to that opportunity. Together they make it possible for all Americans--millions of them at first-hand--to enjoy unspoiled the great scenic places of the Nation.... The National Park System also provides, through areas that are significant in history and prehistory, a physical as well as spiritual linking of present-day Americans with the past of their country."

George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972:

"The national park idea has been nurtured by each succeeding generation of Americans. Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live."

Edwin C. Bearss, NPS Chief Historian, 1981-1994:

"As we Americans celebrate our diversity, so we must affirm our unity if we are to remain the 'one nation' to which we pledge allegiance. Such great national symbols and meccas as the Liberty Bell, the battlefields on which our independence was won and our union preserved, the Lincoln Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and numerous other treasures of our national park system belong to all of us, both legally and spiritually. These tangible evidences of our cultural and natural heritage help make us all Americans."

J. Horace McFarland, president, American Civic Assn., 1916:

"The parks are the Nation's pleasure grounds and the Nation's restoring places.... The national parks...are an American idea; it is one thing we have that has not been imported."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

"There is nothing so American as our national parks.... The fundamental idea behind the parks...is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."

Wallace Stegner, 1983:

"National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."

George M. Wright, Joseph S. Dixon, and Ben H. Thompson, Fauna of the National Parks of the United States, 1933.

"But our national heritage is richer than just scenic features; the realization is coming that perhaps our greatest national heritage is nature itself, with all its complexity and its abundance of life, which, when combined with great scenic beauty as it is in the national parks, becomes of unlimited value. This is what we would attain in the national parks."

Freeman Tilden to George B. Hartzog, Jr., ca. 1971

"I have always thought of our Service as an institution, more than any other bureau, engaged in a field essentially of morality--the aim of man to rise above himself, and to choose the option of quality rather than material superfluity."

Theodore Roosevelt, in The Outlook, February 3, 1912, p. 246. See, Paul Schullery, Theodore Roosevelt: Wilderness Writings, 142.

"The establishment of the National Park Service is justified by considerations of good administration, of the value of natural beauty as a National asset, and of the effectiveness of outdoor life and recreation in the production of good citizenship."

Frederick Law Olmsted, "The Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Trees," (1865), in Landscape Architecture 43:1 (October 1952).

"It is the will of the nation as embodied in the act of Congress [in setting aside the Yosemite government reservation in 1864] that this scenery shall never be private property, but that like certain defensive points upon our coast it shall be solely for public purposes.

Two classes of considerations may be assumed to have influenced the action of Congress. The first and less important is the direct and obvious pecuniary advantage which comes to a commonwealth from the fact that it possesses objects which cannot be taken out of its domain, that are attractive to travellers and the enjoyment of which is open to all.

A more important class of considerations, however, remains to be stated. These are considerations of a political duty of grave importance to which seldom if ever before has proper respect been paid by any government in the world but the grounds of which rest on the same eternal base of equity and benevolence with all other duties of republican government. It is the main duty of government, if it is not the sole duty of government, to provide means of protection for all its citizens in the pursuit of happiness against all the obstacles, otherwise insurmountable, which the selfishness of individuals or combinations of individuals is liable to interpose to that pursuit."

Joseph L. Sax, "America's National Parks: Their Principles, Purposes, and Prospects, Natural History, Supplement, October 1976.

"As Olmsted [FLO, Sr.] demonstrated, the question in a democratic society is not the acceptance or rejection of what the people want. People get the recreation that imaginative leadership gives them.... The essence of recreational policy in a democratic society, he believed, was the willingness to treat the ordinary citizen as something other than a passive customer to be managed and entertained. Olmsted based his theory of recreation on what he called "a faith in the refinement of the republic," a faith in the possibility of liberation from self-interested manipulation."

Stephen Mather, internal document, February 1925.

"The primary duty of the National Park Service is to protect the national parks and national monuments under its jurisdiction and keep them as nearly in their natural state as this can be done in view of the fact that access to them must be provided in order that they may be used and enjoyed. All other activities of the bureau must be secondary (but not incidental) to this fundamental function relating to care and protection of all areas subject to its control."

Biologist Charles C. Adams, in "Ecological Conditions in National Forests and in National Parks," The Scientific Monthly, June 1925.

"It is fortunate indeed that the forest service started with a distinct professional leadership and this was possible because European forestry was highly developed. But the idea of wild or wilderness national parks is a distinctly American idea and did not have a European tradition. The European tradition is about formal park design rather than large wild parks, such as our national parks. For this reason we must develop our own policies for the parks...."

return to Thinking About National Park Service History page


Historian's DirectoryAsk a Question / Contact

Home   |   NPS History   |   Online Books   |   Historical Themes
Maritime   |   Research and Education

Privacy & Disclaimer

National Park Service's ParkNet Home

National Park Service Arrowhead