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NPS Family Tree





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current topic Part VI

Part VII



Family Tree of the National Park System
Part VI
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part VI


NATURAL AREAS, 1964-1972

Ten new natural areas were authorized or established during this period, including five National Parks, four scientific National Monuments, and one National Scientific Reserve, an entirely new type of natural area. In addition two long-established scientific National Monuments were made National Parks and one reservation within National Capital Parks was accorded new status as a separate area. The list follows:

Canyonlands N.P., Utah
Ice Age N. Scien. Res., Wisc.
Agate Fossil Beds N.M., Neb.
Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Texas
North Cascades N.P., Wash.
Redwood N.P., Calif.
Biscayne N.M., Fla.
Marble Canyon N.M., Ariz.
Florissant Fossil Beds N.M., Colo.
Theodore Roosevelt Island, D.C.
(formerly National Capital Parks reservation)
Voyageurs N.P., Minn.
Arches N.P., Utah (formerly Arches N.M.)
Capitol Reef N.P., Utah (formerly Capitol Reef N.M.)

Five new National Parks and two more created out of existing National Monuments is a notable achievement in eight years. It would have been impossible without vigorous efforts by the National Park Service going back many years, aided by newly awakened public and Congressional interest, and the financial base provided when Congress authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965. These seven National Parks brought the total number to 38 and added significantly to the geographical distribution and diversity of scenic and scientific values conserved in the System.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah, was established in 1964 to protect a wild area of exceptional scenic, scientific, and archaeological interest at the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers in southeastern Utah. The park contains over 337,000 acres. Both rivers are entrenched in labyrinthine gorges, and above their confluence the landscape is dominated by a great plateau called the Island in the Sky. The park contains numerous petroglyphs made by Indians a thousand years ago.

Congress authorized the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in 1966 "to preserve . . . an area in the State of Texas possessing outstanding geological values together with scenic and other natural values of great significance." The area had been proposed for inclusion in the System as early as 1933. The park's mountain mass and its adjoining lands contain 81,000 acres and protect portions of the world's most extensive and significant Permian limestone fossil reef.

North Cascades National Park, Washington, embraces over half a million acres of wild alpine country containing jagged peaks, mountain lakes, glaciers, and wildlife. From the start this undertaking was surrounded by intense controversy involving clashes among timber and mining interests, conservationists, local governments, and several Federal agencies, including the Forest Service, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, and the National Park Service. The park was finally authorized in 1968.

Redwood National Park, California, was authorized the same year, also after long and bitter controversy, "to preserve significant examples of the primeval coastal redwood forests and the streams and seashores with which they are associated for purposes of public inspiration, enjoyment and scientific study." Redwood National Park is 46 miles long, north and south, and about 7 miles wide at its greatest width. It includes 30 continuous miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline which, with adjoining hills, ridges, valleys, and streams, protects 56,201 acres of redwood forest, bluffs, and beaches. The boundaries include three well-known California State Parks distinguished by their magnificent redwood groves — Prairie Creek, established in 1923; Del Norte in 1925; and Jedediah Smith in 1929. California has not yet chosen to transfer these lands to the United States, but they are conserved in co-operation with the Service, which administers adjoining Federal lands.

Finally, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, was authorized in 1971 "to preserve, for the inspiration and enjoyment of present and future generations, the outstanding scenery, geological conditions, and waterway system which constituted a part of the historic route of the Voyageurs who contributed significantly to the opening of the Northwestern United States." The park is planned to contain some 220,000 acres of wild northern lake country.

Arches National Monument, Utah, originally established in 1929 by Presidential proclamation under the provisions of the Antiquities Act, was made a National Park by Act of Congress approved November 12, 1971. The area protects giant arches, windows, pinnacles and pedestals, all the extraordinary products of erosion. On the same day, President Nixon approved legislation adding a substantial area of public lands to Canyonlands National Park, bringing its total to 337,258 acres. On December 18, 1971, Capitol Reef National Monument, Utah, originally proclaimed in 1937, was also made a National Park by Act of Congress.

Three new scientific National Monuments were authorized by Acts of Congress during this period and one — Marble Canyon, Arizona — was proclaimed by President Johnson under provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906. These actions increased the number of scientific National Monuments to 37 and widened somewhat the geographical distribution of natural areas preserved in the System. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Nebraska, protects world-renowned quarries containing outstanding deposits of well-preserved Miocene mammal fossils which throw light on an important chapter in evolution often called the Age of Mammals. Biscayne National Monument, Florida, preserves a significant example of a living coral reef in the Upper Florida Keys. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado, protects a wealth of fossil insects, seeds and leaves of Oligocene period which survived in an ancient lake bed. The area includes a remarkable display of petrified Sequoia stumps. Marble Canyon National Monument, Arizona, protects a spectacular 50-mile canyon of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon .

Ice Age National Scientific Reserve was authorized by Congress in 1964— a new type of natural area in the National Park System. It is a cooperative undertaking between the Federal Government and the State of Wisconsin, "to assure protection, preservation, and interpretation of the nationally significant values of Wisconsin continental glaciation, including moraines, eskers, kames, kettleholes, drumlins, swamps, lakes, and other reminders of the ice age." The act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to formulate a comprehensive plan for the area in cooperation with State and local governmental authorities who will continue to own the lands with the Federal Government providing assistance in the form of grants. As amended in 1970 the law provides that in addition to grants made pursuant to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to make grants not to exceed twenty-five percent of the actual cost of each development project within the reserve to a total not exceeding $425,000. In addition the Secretary is authorized to pay up to fifty percent of the annual costs of management, protection, maintenance, and rehabilitation. These are unusual provisions and their implementation by the Service and the State will be followed with close attention by park conservationists. Ice Age National Scientific Reserve may become the prototype for a new kind of natural area in the System.

Although ten significant new natural areas were added between 1964 and 1972, their importance was overshadowed by enactment of the Wilderness Act. That act was a response to deepening national concern for the preservation of America's remaining wilderness in the face of mounting pressures from burgeoning technology, growing population, rising incomes, and increasing leisure time and mobility (78,000,000 automobiles in 1967). After years of passionate effort by devoted conservationists, Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, a milestone in conservation history. The act read in part:

In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as "wilderness areas."

The act defined wilderness as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." For purposes of the act, wilderness was also defined as an area of undeveloped Federal land, primeval in character, without permanent improvements or human habitation, protected and managed to preserve its natural conditions. Wilderness areas should contain at least 5,000 acres of land.

The act required the Secretary of the Interior to review, within ten years, every roadless area of 5,000 contiguous acres or more in the National Parks, National Monuments, and other units of the National Park System and report to the President on the suitability or unsuitability of each such area for preservation as wilderness. A recommendation from the President to Congress to designate a particular wilderness area would become effective only if approved by Act of Congress.

The National Park Service has recently been engaged in a massive effort to complete a review of all roadless areas within the National Park System by 1974. By January 1, 1972, many potential wilderness areas had been studied and two — Petrified Forest and Craters of the Moon — had been designated by Acts of Congress.

As the first century of the history of the National Park System drew toward a close, much remained to be done fully to carry out the provisions of the Wilderness Act, but more than a score of wilderness areas appeared to be nearing designation within the System.

Director Hartzog substantially broadened and strengthened the Natural Landmarks Program in 1970. On August 18 the Federal Register published an official list of 150 Natural Landmarks, located in 41 States then eligible for entry on the National Registry. The list was accompanied by a statement from the Director which officially set forth for the first time the principal natural history themes according to which natural lands would henceforth be inventoried and classified by the National Park Service, as follows:

Landforms of the Present
Plains, plateaus, mesas.
Cuestas and hogbacks.
Mountain systems.
Works of volcanism.
Hot water phenomena.
Sculpture of the land.
Eolian landforms.
River systems and lakes.
The work of glaciers.
Seashores, lakeshores, islands.
Coral islands, reefs, atolls.
Earthquake phenomena.
Caves and springs.
Meteor impact sites.

Land Ecosystems
Boreal forest.
Pacific forest.
Dry coniferous forest and woodland.
Eastern deciduous forest.
Tropical ecosystems.

Geological History of the Earth

Aquatic Ecosystems
Marine environments.
Underground ecosystems.
Lakes and ponds.

Criteria for Natural Landmarks to be designated within these themes were also set forth and examples given of the kinds of areas which could qualify. They included outstanding geological formations; significant fossil evidence; an ecological community illustrating a physiographic province; a habitat supporting a vanishing, rare, or restricted species; a relict fauna or flora; examples of scenic grandeur; and others. For our purposes the establishment of natural history themes and criteria is full of significance for the possible direction of future growth of the Family Tree.

Just as historical themes undergird the Historical Area segment of the National Park System so too natural history themes will undergird the future growth — not only of the National Registry of Natural Areas — but also of the entire Natural Areas segment of the System.

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Last Modified: Sat, May 12 2001 10:08 am PDT

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