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cover to Family Tree of the National Park System
NPS Family Tree





Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

current topic Part VI

Part VII



Family Tree of the National Park System
Part VI
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part VI


Between 1964 and 1972 the National Park System experienced unusual growth. Under the leadership of Director George B. Hartzog, Jr. and Secretaries of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, Walter J. Hickel, and Rogers C. B. Morton, 62 areas were authorized, added to the System, or given new status, in eight years. Of these 13 were natural areas, including five new National Parks; 29 were historical areas, including a series of historic sites and buildings honoring seven former Presidents of the United States; 20 were recreational areas, including eight National Seashores and Lakeshores, three National Scenic Riverways, and one National Scenic Trail; and one was a Cultural Area, an entirely new category in the System. This remarkable growth benefited much from groundwork laid during preceding years but it also derived substantial impetus from the "New Conservation," a term widely used to describe the drastically enlarged scope of the conservation movement which took shape during the 1960's.

The New Conservation

Although it had other roots, for present purposes the "New Conservation" may be considered as beginning with the 1962 report of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, establishment of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation the same year, and creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964. This important Fund played a determining role in enlargement of the National Park System during this period. The movement had many other aspects too important and complex for extended discussion here. Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall articulated important aspects of the "New Conservation" in his book The Quiet Crisis and in his annual reports. Important developments affecting the System included passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the beginnings of the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson convoked the White House Conference on Natural Beauty, which gave new emphasis at the highest levels of government to the importance of aesthetic values, primarily natural but also cultural. In the ensuing years, under Mrs. Johnson's leadership, the natural beauty movement spread from Washington, D. C. — where important aspects were demonstrated in National Capital Parks for all the nation to see — to States and communities all over America. Historic preservation became part of the "New Conservation" with enactment of the highly important National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. Among other important steps he took to extend and deepen the "New Conservation," President Richard M. Nixon launched his Legacy of Parks program and proposed World Heritage Trust in 1971.

Underlying all these widening concerns of the 1960's and early 1970's was a growing national conviction that partial conservation programs, however meritorious, were inadequate to meet modern problems. The fabric of life, it was finally realized, is seamless. This conviction grew as millions of Americans saw with their own eyes the steady spread of air and water pollution in their own neighborhoods to levels hazardous to life. The intolerable consequences of dramatic off-shore oil spills, deadening smog, filthy rivers, and diminishing open space were evident on every hand. Scientists announced that the very foundations of life on earth were in jeopardy because of the profound impact of modern technology on the total ecology of the globe. But among all the factors that forced Americans to turn their full attention to the life-giving qualities of their environment, none equalled the landing on the moon. The truth came as a revelation. Viewed from outer space, the planet earth is a small green orb in an apparently lifeless immensity and man's only home.

The first comprehensive response to this revelation was Congressional passage of the National Environmental Policy Act signed by President Nixon on January 1, 1970. This legislation has been called by Senator Henry Jackson of Washington "the most important and far-reaching environmental and conservation measure ever acted upon by the Congress. . . ; The survival of man, in a world in which decency and dignity are possible, is the basic reason for bringing man's impact on his environment under informed and responsible control." The act established new national environmental goals for the United States and forged new administrative instruments for environmental conservation. Under its authority, during 1970, President Nixon created two major new agencies. One, the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President, monitors environmental conservation. The other, the Environmental Protection Agency, consolidates into one agency the major Federal programs dealing with air pollution, water pollution, solid waste disposal, pesticides, and environmental radiation. After these developments, the roles of the National Park System and Service in American life had to be viewed anew in the light of their relationship to the quality of our total environment.

One specific response was development of a National Park Service program for environmental education beginning as early as 1968. The program was called NEED, or National Environmental Education Development, aimed especially at bringing school children to a critical awareness of their environment, but also directed to all park visitors. It included designation of Environmental Study Areas on National Park System lands to be used primarily by school children to help them understand their total environment, its many interdependent relationships, and their part in it. In 1971 a further program was adopted to confer national recognition on non-federal sites possessing outstanding quality for environmental education by designating them National Environmental Education Landmarks. Secretary of the Interior Rogers C. B. Morton designated the first eleven sites in 1971, situated in nine states and the District of Columbia.

In a broad sense, all the interdependent and developing programs of the National Park Service are aimed at contributing to the formation of a new environmental ethic among the American people, "a foundation on which our citizens may renew and preserve the quality of our national life." The National Park System in all its unity and diversity came to be seen as an on-going expression of America's continuing regard for its land and its history, one of the wellsprings for a new land ethic supported by a renewed sense of our national identity.

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

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