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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 4:
The Poverty Years: 1942 - 1956
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National Parks Association, 1945


National primeval parks are spacious land and water areas essentially in their primeval condition and so outstandingly superior in quality and beauty to average examples of their several types as to make imperative their preservation intact and in their entirety for their enjoyment, education and inspiration of all the people for all time.

In the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the American Republics, the term "national parks" has been defined as denoting areas "established for the protection and preservation of superlative scenery, flora and fauna of national significance which the general public may enjoy and from which it may benefit when placed under public control."

It follows:

  1. That primeval park areas must be of national importance to warrant their commitment to national care.
  2. That the area of each primeval park must be a comprehensive unit embracing all territory required for effective administration and for continuing representation of its flora and fauna.
  3. That each primeval park area shall be a sanctuary for the scientific study and preservation of all animal and plant life originally within its limits, to the end that all native species shall be preserved as nearly as possible in their aboriginal state.
  4. That wilderness features within any primeval park shall be k;ept unmodified except insofar as the public shall be given reasonable access to outstanding spectacles.
  5. That with respect to any unique geological formations or historic or prehistoric remains within its confines, each primeval park shall be regarded as an outdoor museum, the preservation of whose treasures is a sacred trust.
  6. The educational and spiritual benefits to be derived from contact with pristine wilderness are of prime importance to all people, and call for the existence and vigilant maintenance of primeval park areas by responsible government agencies.
  7. That primeval parks must be kept free from commercial use, and that sanctuary, scientific and inspirational uses must always take precedence over non-conforming recreational uses.


The areas to be included in the national primeval park group must conform to the standards for such parks herein set forth. Areas that may be added to this group must be units that will fully maintain or increase its supreme scenic magnificence, its scientific and educational superiority, and its character as a unique national institution.

It is desirable that, as a general principle, national primeval parks should differ as widely as possible from one another, and the National Primeval Park System should represent a wide range of typical areas of supreme quality.

To preserve the National Primeval Park System, it must be recognized: (1) that any infraction of standards in any primeval park constitutes an invasion of the system; (2) that the addition to the system, as a national primeval park, of any area below standard lowers the standard of the system. Every proposed use of any primeval park in defiance of national primeval park standards, and the admission to the system of any area falling short of the standards must be resisted. Areas primarily of local interest must not be admitted to the National Primeval Park System.


1. Procedure: The first official act toward the creation of an national primeval park is usually the introduction of a bill in Congress. Since the beginning of the system in 1872, according to established precedent, the bill is referred to the Public Lands committees of Senate and House. These committees in turn refer it to the Secretary of the Interior for a report on the standards and availability of the proposed park. The Secretary of the Interior in due course refers the bill to the National Park Service for examination of the area and for a report to him. The Secretary embodies the recommendations of the National Park Service in his report to the Congress which is then in position to take action. Public hearings are often

held by the appropriate committees prior to making their reports to the Congress.

2. Recommendations: (1) The examination of an area to determine its suitability as a primeval park should be made at the expense of the federal government and not at the expense of the local community which would benefit by the park's creation. Committees to consider boundary problems should be strictly advisory to the federal administration to which alone they should be empowered to report. (2) Exact metes and bounds based upon studies made by the National Park Service should be established by Congress in the organic act creating every new park. The federal government should purchase, as soon as practicable, alienated areas within the boundaries of an existing primeval park, and also areas necessary to round out such park. (3) No steps affecting an existing primeval park or concerned with the creation of a new primeval park should be taken without a prior study and approval of the National Park Service which alone possesses the requisite knowledge, tradition and experience united with responsibility to the people. No area offered for the creation of a new primeval park should be considered by Congress until a study has been made of the area by the National Park Service and its recommendations secured. On the recommendation of the National Park Service, park areas should be extended so as to include feeding grounds for the wildlife found therein. (4) Appropriations should be adequate to enable the National Park Service to protect existing parks and their forests against fire, vandalism and other agencies of destruction, and to maintain the system in accordance with national primeval park standards. (5) All existing national primeval parks now up to the standards set forth should remain as created, subject to modification only upon the favorable recommendation of the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the National Park Service, based upon expert investigation.


In administering national primeval parks it is recommended:

  1. That each park be administered with the primary objective of conserving its highest scientific and inspirational usefulness to the people of the nation.
  2. That no commercial use or activity such as logging, mining, grazing or damming of water courses should be permitted on primeval park lands, by exchange or otherwise.
  3. That scientific, educational and inspirational values dictate the major uses of primeval parks.
  4. That attracting crowds for the sake of records or profits, and the introduction of non-conforming recreational activities be regarded as violations of the national primeval park standards.
  5. That scientific administration be applied to all phases of park maintenance, and particularly to the preservation of wilderness, wildlife and geological features.
  6. That a suitable educational program be developed by the National Park Service, using the natural features of the parks as instructional material. The National Park Service should inform the public concerning park purposes and functions, and emphasize the necessity of caring for and protecting irreplaceable objects of natural and scientific interest. No visitor to a primeval park area should leave without having been informed about the special significance of that particular area, as well as of the system as a whole.
  7. That roads be developed in each national primeval park only in order to bring the people in touch with its principal features and for the purpose of protecting the park. In every instance they should be constructed and placed so that they will cause the least possible impairment to natural features. Wilderness, sanctuary and research areas should be reached by trail only.
  8. That public airplane landing fields, as well as railroad stations, be located outside park boundaries. Flying across primeval parks, if permitted at all, should be closely regulated.
  9. That park buildings be as unobtrusive as possible, harmonizing with their surroundings. They should be erected only where necessary for the protection of the parks and for the comfort of visitors, and at locations where they will least interfere with natural conditions.
  10. That concessions be granted only for such business as is necessary for the care and comfort of visitors, and then in definitely localized areas. Such concessions should not interfere with the rights of individuals under park rules to provide for themselves while visiting the park.
  11. That the use of any primeval park interfere as little as possible with the rights of future generations to enjoy nature unmodified.


These standards should apply also to national monuments that are of similar character and purpose as the national primeval parks.

National Park Service Archives, Harpers Ferry, General Collection Box 5410. Reprinted with permission of the National Parks and Conservation Society.

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Last Modified: October 25, 2000 10:00:00 am PST

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