What We Do

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A Preservation Mission

A system of laws, policies, standards, and guidelines charge the NPS with the responsibility of preserving cultural landscapes and other historic properties in national parks. The agency also assists other federal agencies, states, municipalities, and partners in their preservation efforts. This role has developed from the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966.

The Park Cultural Landscapes Program of the National Park Service supports this mission, coordinating the efforts of park staff, regional offices and centers, and the Washington, D.C. office. The goal of preserving cultural landscapes in perpetuity is addressed through preservation, education, and outreach activities.

In this role, the program's professionals strive to:

Branch diagram indicates professionals in the program


  • Enhance public appreciation and awareness for cultural landscapes in NPS units;
  • Identify and document cultural landscapes in parks; and
  • Assist NPS managers and technical professionals to incorporate cultural landscape resource information into park planning, interpretation, treatment, and operations.
Members of the NPS Park Cultural Landscapes Program pose for a group photo.
Members of the Park Cultural Landscapes Program in November of 2015.

NPS

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Five men in hats, ties, riding pants, and high boots stand under a tall evergreen tree.
NPS Director Stephen Mather (center) joins others at the proposed Ahwahnee Hotel Site, Yosemite National Park. May 1926.

Photographer James V. Lloyd / NPS

Past, Present, and Future

From the conception of the agency on August 25, 1916, the national park system protected public parks, monuments, and reservations "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

A century later, the park service still strives to meet these goals. "Cultural landscapes" were formally identified in 1988 as a type of cultural resource in the national park system in a management policy that mandated their recognition and protection. Preservation of cultural landscapes recognizes the importance of considering both built and natural features, dynamics of natural processes, and continued use.

The preservation activities for cultural resource management include Research, Planning, and Stewardship. Click the photos below to explore work that the Park Cultural Landscapes Program is doing in these areas.

Preservation activities of the Park Cultural Landscapes Program include Research, Planning, and Stewardship.
Click on the images above for more on the preservation activities of the Park Cultural Landscapes Program.
Stewardship activities of the Park Cultural Landscapes Program. Stewardship activities of the Park Cultural Landscapes Program Planning activities of the Park Cultural Landscapes Program Research activities of the Park Cultural Landscapes Program

Last updated: April 5, 2022