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A Brief History Of The National Park Service




National Park Idea

Early Growth

NPS Created






Plans and Design





Historic Conservation

Land Planning

State Cooperation


Work Camps

Recreation Study




Antiquities Act

Organic Act

Historic Sites Act

Recreational-Area Programs Act



General Policies

Various acts of Congress and regulations set up by the Department and the Service have, during the years, become resolved into general policies for the protection, conservation, and administration of the national park and monument system. These policies were best set forth by Louis C. Cramton, special attorney to the Secretary of the Interior, the results of whose studies were incorporated in the annual report of the Director to the Secretary for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1932. They are:

1. A national park is an area maintained by the Federal Government and "dedicated and set apart for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." Such Federal maintenance should occur only where the preservation of the area in question is of national interest because of its outstanding value from a scenic, scientific, or historical point of view. Whether a certain area is to be so maintained by the Federal Government as a national park should not depend upon the financial capacity of the state within which it is located, or upon its nearness to centers of population which would insure a large attendance therefrom, or upon its remoteness from such centers which would insure its majority attendance from without its state. It should depend up on its own outstanding scenic, scientific, or historical quality and the resultant national interest in its preservation.

2. The national-park system should possess variety, accepting the supreme* in each of the various types and subjects of scenic, scientific, and historical importance. The requisite national interest does not necessarily involve a universal interest, but should imply a wide-spread interest, appealing to many individuals, regardless of residence, because of its outstanding merit in its class.

* Under present interpretation of this policy, any number of super lative areas may be included in the national system.

3. The twin purposes of the establishment of such an area as a national park are its enjoyment and use by the present generation, with its preservation unspoiled for the future; to conserve the scenery, the natural and historical objects and the wild life therein, by such means as will insure that their present use leaves them unimpaired. Proper administration will retain these areas in their natural condition, sparing them the vandalism of improvement. Exotic animal or plant life should not be introduced. There should be no capture of fish or game for purposes of merchandise or profit and no destruction of animals except such as are detrimental to use of the parks now and hereafter. Timber should never be considered from a commercial standpoint but may be cut when necessary in order to control the attacks of insects or disease or otherwise conserve the scenery or the natural or historic objects, and dead or down timber may be removed for protection or improvement. Removal of antiquities or scientific specimens should be permitted only for reputable public museums or for universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions, and always under department supervision and careful restriction and never to an extent detrimental to the interest of the area or of the local museum.

4. Education is a major phase of the enjoyment and benefit to be derived by the people from these parks and an important service to individual development is that of inspiration. Containing the supreme in objects of scenic, historical, or scientific interest, the educational opportunities are preeminent, supplementing rather than duplicating those of schools and colleges, and are available to all. There should be no governmental attempt to dominate or to limit such education within definite lines. The effort should be to make available to each park visitor as fully and effectively as possible these opportunities, aiding each to truer interpretation and appreciation and to the working out of his own aspirations and desires, whether they be elementary or technical, casual or constant.

5. Recreation, in its broadest sense, includes much of education and inspiration. Even in its narrower sense, having a good time, it is a proper incidental use. In planning for recreational use of the parks, in this more restricted meaning, the development should be related to their inherent values and calculated to promote the beneficial use thereof by the people. It should not encourage exotic forms of amusement and should never permit that which conflicts with or weakens the enjoyment of these inherent values.

6. These areas are best administered by park-trained civilian authority.

7. Such administration must deal with important problems in forestry, road building and wild life conservation, which it must approach from the angles peculiar to its own responsibilities. It should define its objectives in harmony with the fundamental purposes of the parks. It should carry them into effect through its own personnel except when economy and efficiency can thereby best be served without sacrifice of such objectives, through cooperation with other bureaus of the Federal Government having to do with similar subjects. In forestry, it should consider scenic rather than commercial values and preservation rather than marketable products; in road building, the route, the type of construction and the treatment of related objects should all contribute to the fullest accomplishment of the intended use of the area; and, in wild life conservation, the preservation of the primitive rather than the development of any artificial ideal should be sought.

8. National park administration should seek primarily the benefit and enjoyment of the people rather than financial gain and such enjoyment should be free to the people with out vexatious admission charges and other fees.

9. Every effort is to be made to provide accommodations for all visitors, suitable to their respective tastes and pocketbooks. Safe travel is to be provided for over suitable roads and trails. Through proper sanitation the health of the individual and of the changing community is always to be protected.

10. Roads, buildings, and other structures necessary for park administration and for public use and comfort should intrude upon the landscape or conflict with it only to the absolute minimum.

11. The national parks are essentially noncommercial in character and no utilitarian activity should exist therein except as essential to the care and comfort of park visitors.

12. The welfare of the public and the best interests of park visitors will be conserved by protective permits for utilities created to serve them in transportation, lodging, food, and incidentals.

13. The national interest should be held supreme in the national-park areas and encroachments conflicting therewith for local or individual benefit should not be permitted.

14. Private ownership or lease of land within a national park constitutes an undesirable encroachment, setting up exclusive benefits for the individual as against the common enjoyment by all, and is contrary to the fundamental purposes of such parks.

15. National parks, established for the permanent preservation of areas and objects of national interest, are intended to exist forever. When under the general circumstances such action is feasible, even though special conditions require the continuance of limited commercial activities or of limited encroachments for local or individual benefit, an area of national-park caliber should be accorded that status now, rather than to abandon it permanently to full commercial exploitation and probable destruction of its sources of national interest. Permanent objectives highly important may thus be accomplished and the compromises, undesired in principle but not greatly destructive in effect, may later be eliminated as occasion for their continuance passes.

16. In a national park the national laws and regulations should be enforced by a national tribunal. Therefore, exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government is important.

17. National monuments, under jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, established to preserve historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of scientific or historical interest, do not relate primarily to scenery and differ in extent of interest and importance from national parks, but the principles herein set forth should, so far as applicable, govern them.

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