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NPS Family Tree





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Family Tree of the National Park System
Part I
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part I



While the early National Parks were being created, a separate movement got underway to preserve the magnificent cliff dwellings, pueblo ruins, and early missions discovered by cowboys, army officers, ethnologists, and other explorers on the vast public lands of the Southwest from plunder and destruction by pot-hunters and vandals. The effort to secure protective legislation began early among historically minded scientists and civic leaders in Boston and spread to similar circles in Washington, New York, Denver, Santa Fe, and other centers during the 1880's and 1890's. Thus was born the National Monument idea. With important help from Rep. John Fletcher Lacey of Iowa and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, it was written into law in the Antiquities Act of 1906—with profound consequences for the National Park System.

The National Monument idea extended the principle of the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 to antiquities and objects of scientific interest on the public domain. It authorized the President, in his discretion, "to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" situated on lands owned or controlled by the United States to be National Monuments. The act also prohibited the excavation or appropriation of antiquities on Federal land without a permit.

Between 1906 and 1970, under this authority, eleven Presidents proclaimed 87 National Monuments—36 historic and 51 scientific. Sixty-three are thriving National Monuments in the National Park System of 1972, eleven formed the basis for creation of nine National Parks, one became a National Battlefield, one a National Historic Site, one was added to a National Parkway, and ten small ones have been abolished. The Antiquities Act is therefore the original authority for one in every four units of the National Park System. These areas, counting their original boundaries and subsequent additions, contained approximately 12 million acres in 1970. The great majority of these acres, approximately 11,845,000, are in scientific monuments. Only 155,000 acres have been set aside for historic monuments. In addition to 87 National Monuments established under the Antiquities Act, between 1929 and 1969 28 others were authorized by individual Acts of Congress, generally on the pattern of those established by proclamation.

Between 1906 and 1933 three Federal agencies, the Departments of Interior, Agriculture and War, initiated and administered separate groups of National Monuments. In the Family Tree, these form three National Monument lines, one for each department. Following is the first of these three lines, representing National Monuments established between 1906 and 1916 on lands administered by the Department of the Interior.

When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act on June 8, 1906, Interior Department officials were well aware that the public domain and Indian lands contained remarkable natural wonders, great Indian ruins, and magnificent cliff dwellings that badly needed permanent protection. As early as 1889 Congress authorized the President to reserve the land on which the well known Casa Grande Ruin was situated from settlement or sale. In 1904, at the request of the General Land Office, Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett had made a comprehensive review of all the Indian antiquities located on Federal lands in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. After consultations with many other scientists, particularly those in the Bureau of American Ethnology, he had recommended specific sites for preservation. Hewett's review did not extend to public lands outside the Southwest, however, and no systematic survey had been made by anyone on any public lands to identify natural wonders that should be made National Monuments. The Antiquities Act made no provision for surveys. The Interior Department was therefore forced to rely largely for National Monument proposals upon an improvised combination of sources—recommendations from individual scientists or government officials exploring the West; accidental discoveries by cowboys or prospectors; offers by private citizens of donations of land suitable for preservation as monuments; projects conceived by local citizens and sponsored by members of Congress, some of which had been pending before Congress years before the Antiquities Act became law. On this basis, between 1906 and 1916 the Interior Department recommended and Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson proclaimed twenty National Monuments, eighteen situated on the public domain or Indian lands and two — Muir Woods and Sieur de Monts — on donated lands. Seven were historic and thirteen scientific, as follows:

Historic National Monuments:
El Morro, N. Mex.
Montezuma Castle, Ariz.
Chaco Canyon, N. Mex.
Tumacacori, Ariz.
Navajo, Ariz.
Gran Quivira, N. Mex.
Sitka, Alaska
Scientific National Monuments:
Devils Tower, Wyo.
Petrified Forest, Ariz.

Muir Woods, Calif.
Natural Bridges, Utah
Lewis & Clark Cavern, Mont.

Mukuntuweap, Utah
Shoshone Cavern, Wyo.
Rainbow Bridge, Utah
Colorado, Colo.
Papago Saguaro, Ariz.
Dinosaur, Utah

Sieur de Monts, Maine
Capulin Mt., N. Mex.
Enabling Act to create National Park Service

Devils Tower was the first National Monument, proclaimed by President Theodore Roosevelt on September 24, 1906. It was created to protect a well known Wyoming landmark, a 600-foot-high massive stone shaft sometimes visible in that almost cloudless region for nearly 100 miles and often used by Indians, explorers, and settlers as a guidepost. In December 1906, three more National Monuments were proclaimed — El Morro, New Mexico, famous for its prehistoric petroglyphs and hundreds of later inscriptions, including those of 17th century Spanish explorers and 19th century American emigrants and settlers; Montezuma Castle, Arizona, one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the United States; and Petrified Forest, Arizona, well known for its extensive deposits of petrified wood, Indian ruins and petroglyphs. Of the twenty National Monuments that eventually composed this group, three later formed the nuclei for National Parks—Mukuntuweap for Zion, Sieur de Monts for Acadia, and Petrified Forest for the park of the same name. Three small areas were eventually abolished — Lewis and Clark Cavern, Shoshone Cavern, and Papago Saguaro. Within the decade of 1906-16 the National Monument idea became well established as a means of creating both historic and scientific parks.

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