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America's National Park Service: The Critical Documents
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Table of Contents


The Early Years,

Defining The System,

The New Deal Years,

The Poverty Years,

Questions of
Resource Management

The Ecological Revolution,

Transformation and

A System Threatened,

Summaries of
Lengthy Documents

About the Editor

America's National Park System:
The Critical Documents
Chapter 2:
Defining the System 1919-1932
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National Park Service Predator Policy, 1931


The National Park Service is attempting to put the parks to their highest use. Every policy developed is an attempt to meet the purposes for which the parks were formed; First, the national parks must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form for the use of future generations as well as those of our own time; second, they are set apart for the use, observation, health, pleasure, and inspiration of the people; and third, the national interest must dictate all decisions affecting public or private enterprise in the parks.

Certainly, one of the great contributions to the welfare of the Nation that national parks may make is that of wild life protection. It is one of the understood functions of the parks to give total protection to animal life. A definite policy of wild life protection is being developed with the result that fine herds of game are furnished as a spectacle for the benefit of the public, and those same herds furnish the best of opportunity for scientific study. Many disappearing species are to be found within park areas, so that in some instances we may speak of the parks as providing "last stands."

Of late there has been much discussion by the American Mammalogical Society and other scientific organizations relative to predatory animals and their control. The inroads of the fur trapper and widespread campaigns of destruction have caused the great reduction of some and the near disappearance of several American carnivores. The question naturally arises as to whether there is any place where they may be expected to survive and be available for scientific study in the future.

The National Park Service believes that predatory animals have a real place in nature, and that all animal life should be kept inviolate within the parks. As a consequence, the general policies relative to predatory animals are as follows:

1. Predatory animals are to be considered an integral part of the wild life protected within national parks and no widespread campaigns of destruction are to be countenanced. The only control practiced is that of shooting of coyotes or other predators when they are actually found making serious inroads upon herds of game or other mammals needing special protection.

2. No permits for trapping within the borders of a park are allowed. A resolution opposing the use of steel traps within a park was passed several years ago by the superintendents at their annual meeting.

3. Poison is believed to be a non-selective form of control and is banned from the national parks except where used by Park Service officials in warfare against rodents in settled portions of a park, or in case of emergency.

Though provision is made for the handling of special problems which may arise, it is the intention of the Service to hold definitely to these general policies. It can be seen, therefore, that within the national park system definite attention is given to that group of animals which elsewhere are not tolerated. It is the duty of the National Park Service to maintain examples of the various interesting North American mammals under natural conditions for the pleasure and education of the visitors and for the purpose of scientific study, and to this task it pledges itself.

Director, National Park Service

Reprinted by permission of The Journal of Mammalogy (12, 2, 1931, 185-186).

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