The Regional Review

Volume III - No. 2

August, 1939


The difference between a national park and a national monument is explained in a manner comprehensible to all in a letter written by Col. John R. White, as Acting Associate Director, in answer to an inquiry received from a Californian. The letter says in part:

National Monuments were first established by proclamation following passage of the Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities, approved June 8, 1906. The purpose of the Act was to provide the President with authority to declare as national monuments historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government. The Act requires that national monuments shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected. Many such areas, obviously so fine that they belong to the Nation as a whole, were then in danger of falling in to private hands, for private exploitation. In order to save them authority for quick action was necessary in each case, and Congress decreed that the President should have such authority.

National parks are established only by act of Congress. A national park is an area so spacious that it includes all of the supplemental features directly related to, or essentially a part of, the dominant feature. For instance, at Sequoia National Park the dominant feature is the magnificent forest of Big Trees. But the park area is large enough to include a suitable amount of their setting, or habitat, so that we have there a complete natural unity, including not only the trees, but also the scenery, geology, wildlife and other elements associated with them.

A national monument, on the other hand, is an area notable for, and largely restricted to, some one feature. At Devils Tower National Monument, for instance, the core of an ancient volcano is found. It is the only feature there of particular national importance. No large portion of its setting is necessary as a part of the exhibit, or for its care and management.

In short then, we may say that the simplest distinction between a national park and a national monument is that the former is all of the extensive natural unity of the important dominant feature, while the latter is restricted to the dominant feature itself.

All national parks and national monuments are administered alike as to general laws, rules and regulations. . .

sketch of sunset


New designations for Abraham Lincoln National Park, Kentucky, Fort McHenry National Park, Maryland, and Chalmette National Battlefield Site, Louisiana, were authorized by bills signed this month by President Roosevelt. The 110-acre Lincoln birthplace area is to be known as Abraham Lincoln National Historical Park, and the famous Baltimore stronghold whose defense inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner becomes a national monument bearing a descriptive name unlike that of any other in the system: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. The two changes had been recommended by the Department of the Interior because both areas are primarily historical in character and do not embody the natural features associated with the national park classification.

Establishment of the former Chalmette National Battlefield Site as Chalmette National Historical Park raises to four the total of units in that category. It is the site of the battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815 the most important land encounter of the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson defeated the British there 15 days after a treaty of peace had been signed at Ghent, Belgium. The Louisiana Legislature appropriated $300,000 last year for acquisition of lands along Jackson's line of defense so that it might be donated to the federal government as an enlargement of the Chalmette area to proportions commensurate with its national historical importance.

The Service also issued this month a report describing outstanding developments in the national park and monument system during the last fiscal year. More than 1,600,000 acres were added to scenic, recreational and historical areas, bringing the aggregate to 20,817,228. The total number of Service units was increased from 144 to 154.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002