National Parks: Past History
Andrew Jackson in 1832 signed legislation to set aside land in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to protect the land from future development. With John Muir’s strong argument supporting natural parks and President Lincoln’s 1864 ceding of Yosemite National Park for preservation, led to further such designation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. As politics played into national parks, the initial status allowed state control (as in case of Yosemite for California) which then became national control (as in case of Yellowstone) – with the latter under Theodore Roosevelt. Unfortunately, the “rules” required displacing Native Americans.
Collectively, 59 national parks existed as of 1916 (with 407 sites total managed by National Park Service, an entity created in early 1900s). Interestingly, the national park idea was taken up by other countries around the world subsequently, including Australia, then Canada.
An international agency, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), deals with national parks and stated that in 2006, there were 6,555 national parks worldwide. Famous park rangers have included President Gerald Ford.
National Parks: Present Status
Today, national parks include many characteristics:
- not affected by human living, exploitation, or work (except for conservation and park-related intrinsic activities, with proper budget and staff provided), though visitation was allowed;
- controlled by the highest national office, with statutory legal protection;
- visitation, though allowed, must be for educational, recreational, or such means and not commercial;
- nature conservation and protection are paramount (with a minimum size of about at least 2,470 acres.
In an upcoming section, we can discuss the specifics of each part, the unique qualities, both aesthetic and structural, as well as related efforts to maintain the originally created criteria.
National Parks: Future
Novel ideas for future national park use, while still operating under the framework noted above, include the “benefit sharing” – whereby the park itself benefits from research-related activities and revenue in form of a discovery or invention. Most recently, in 2013, this legislation defined National Park Service (NPS) guidelines regarding ethics, basic procedures, principles, and responsibilities.
Organizations such as the National Parks Conservatory Association (NPCA) continue to influence and support legislation for national parks, as proclaimed by their mission (www.npca.org). With a presence in 49 of 50 states (perhaps Delaware will add on in the future), the National Parks have perhaps a good chance still of what many have proclaimed as “America’s Best Idea.”