On-line Book
Cover to America's National Park Service: The Critical Documents
Cover Page


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 5:
Questions of Resource Management: 1957 - 1963
National Park Service Arrowhead


A Report to the President and to the Congress by the
Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission
Laurance S. Rockefeller, Chairman
January, 1962

This report is a study of outdoor recreation in America—its history, its place in current American life, and its future. It represents a detailed investigation of what the public does in the out-of-doors, what factors affect its choices, what resources are available for its use, what are the present and future needs, and what the problems are in making new resources available. The investigation involves the present and to some extent the past, but its principal concern is for the future—between now and the year 2000. It is a plan for coming generations, one that must be started now and carried forward so that the outdoors may be available to the Americans of the future as it has been to those of the past.

Americans have long been concerned with the values of the outdoors. From Thoreau, Olmsted, and Muir in the middle of the past century to the leaders of today, there has been a continuing tradition of love of the outdoors and action to conserve its values. Yet one of the main currents of modern life has been the movement away from the outdoors. It no longer lies at the back door or at the end of Main Street. More and more, most Americans must traverse miles of crowded highways to know the outdoors. The prospect for the future is that this quest will be even more difficult.

Decade by decade, the expanding population has achieved more leisure time, more money to spend, and better travel facilities; and it has sought more and better opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. But the public has also demanded more of other things. In the years following World War II, this process greatly accelerated as an eager Nation, released from wartime restrictions, needed millions of new acres for subdivisions, industrial sites, highways, schools, and airports. The resources for outdoor recreation—shoreline, green acres, open space, and unpolluted waters—diminished in the face of demands for more of everything else.

In Washington, this created legislative issues in the Congress and administrative problems within the agencies responsible for providing opportunities for outdoor recreation. Similar problems were faced in many State capitals across the country. In some cases, they stemmed from conflicts among different interests vying for use of the same resources. In others, it was the matter of responsibility—who should do the job, and who should pay the bill. Private landowners were faced with problems caused by the public seeking recreation on their land. The factors which brought about the increased need for outdoor recreation grew, and each year the problems intensified.

During the 1950's, the pressing nature of the problems of outdoor recreation had become a matter of deep concern for Members of Congress, State legislators, other public leaders, and many private citizens and organizations. Numerous problems, both foreign and domestic, were making demands upon the Nation's resources and energies. But it was felt that in making choices among these priorities, America must not neglect its heritage of the outdoors—for that heritage offers physical, spiritual, and educational benefits, which not only provide a better environment but help to achieve other national goals by adding to the health of the Nation.

By 1958, Congress had decided that an intensive nationwide study should be made of outdoor recreation, one involving all levels of government and the private contribution, and on June 28 of that year it established the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission.

The authorizing act, Public Law 85-470, set forth the mission. It was essentially threefold:

To determine the outdoor recreation wants and needs of the American people now and what they will be in the years 1976 and 2000.
To determine the recreation resources of the Nation available to satisfy those needs now and in the years 1976 and 2000.
To determine what policies and programs should be recommended to ensure that the needs of the present and future are adequately and efficiently met.

The Commission that Congress established to carry out this task was composed of eight Congressional members, two representing each party from the Interior and Insular Affairs Committees of the Senate and of the House; and seven private citizens appointed by the President, one of whom was designated as Chairman.

In the fall of 1958, the Commission began recruiting a staff and in the following year launched its study program. The staff designed and coordinated the program and carried out some of the key studies, but many studies were assigned to outside contractors—Federal agencies, universities, and nonprofit research organizations—with particular skills, experience, or facilities. The reports resulting from these studies (listed in appendix C), with a full description of the techniques used in their conduct, are available in separate volumes because of their general public interest and potential value to officials at all levels of government and to others who may wish to pursue the subjects further. A few of the lines of investigation followed may be mentioned briefly.

To assess present resources for outdoor recreation, the Commission initiated an inventory of all the nonurban public designated recreation areas of the country. These numbered more than 24,000. Over a hundred items of information were analyzed in connection with 5,000 of the larger areas in order to evaluate present use and capacity and potential for development.

The Commission also carried out special studies to probe particular problems such as those connected with wilderness, water recreation, hunting and fishing, the densely populated Northeast, and sparsely populated Alaska.

To determine what the pressure is and will be on the resources, the Commission undertook a series of studies on the demand for outdoor recreation. At the base of these studies was a National Recreation Survey, conducted for the Commission by the Bureau of the Census. Some 16,000 persons were asked questions about their background, their economic status, what they presently do for outdoor recreation (if anything), what they would like to do more of, and why they do not do the things they want to do.

In further studies designed to complement and amplify the findings of the survey, the Commission investigated the effects on outdoor recreation of present and prospective changes—sectionally and nationally—in personal income, in population, in leisure time, and in travel facilities. To project future needs, the effects of such changes were applied to the present patterns as developed by the National Recreation Survey.

In order to have an effective method of working with the States, the Commission asked the Governor of each to appoint a State Contact Officer through whom it might channel all its requests. The Governors generally appointed the head of the State conservation, recreation, fish and game, or planning agency. These men and their associates made a major contribution in carrying out the inventory of State areas. This involved the laborious task of supplying detailed information on every area in the State. In other studies they provided financial, legal, and administrative data.

The Federal agencies in Washington and their field offices made available their valuable experience in the problems of outdoor recreation and provided specific data on their programs. In almost every study, the Commission began by consulting these agencies to determine what information was already available, and a great deal of valuable material was at hand.

The cooperation offered by their States and Federal agencies greatly expanded the reach of the Commission. Hundreds of people contributed significant time and effort and thus made it possible to do far more than otherwise could have been accomplished.


As results of the studies began flowing to the Commission, some old ideas were discarded, some were reinforced, and some new concepts evolved. The following are a few of the major conclusions.

The Simple Activities Are the Most Popular.

Driving and walking for pleasure, swimming, and picnicking lead the list of the outdoor activities in which Americans participate, and driving for pleasure is most popular of all. This is generally true regardless of income, education, age, or occupation.

Outdoor Opportunities Are Most Urgently Needed Near Metropolitan Areas.

Three-quarters of the people will live in these areas by the turn of the century. They will have the greatest need for outdoor recreation, and their need will be the most difficult to satisfy as urban centers have the fewest facilities (per capita) and the sharpest competition for land use.

Across the Country, Considerable Land Is Now Available for Outdoor Recreation, But It Does Not Effectively Meet the Need.

Over a quarter billion acres are public designated outdoor recreation areas. However, either the location of the land, or restrictive management policies, or both, greatly reduce the effectiveness of the land for recreation use by the bulk of the population. Much of the West and virtually all of Alaska are of little use to most Americans looking for a place in the sun for their families on a weekend, when the demand is overwhelming. At regional and State levels, most of the land is where people are not. Few places are near enough to metropolitan centers for a Sunday outing. The problem is not one of total acres but of effective acres.

Money Is Needed.

Most public agencies, particularly in the States, are faced with a lack of funds. Outdoor recreation opportunities can be created by acquiring new areas or by more intensive development of existing resources, but either course requires money. Federal, State, and local governments are now spending about $1 billion annually for outdoor recreation. More will be needed to meet the demand.

Outdoor Recreation Is Often Compatible With Other Resource Uses.

Fortunately, recreation need not be the exclusive use of an area, particularly the larger ones. Recreation can be another use in a development primarily managed for a different purpose, and it therefore should be considered in many kinds of planning—urban renewal, highway construction, water resource development, forest and range management, to name only a few.

Water Is a Focal Point of Outdoor Recreation.

Most people seeking outdoor recreation want water—to sit by, to swim and fish in, to ski across, to dive under, and to run their boats over. Swimming is now one of the most popular outdoor activities and is likely to be the most popular of all by the turn of the century. Boating and fishing are among the top 10 activities. Camping, picnicking, and hiking, also high on the list, are more attractive near water sites.

Outdoor Recreation Brings About Economic Benefits.

Although the chief reason for providing outdoor recreation is the broad social and individual benefits it produces, it also brings about desirable economic effects. Its provision enhances community values by creating a better place to live and increasing land values. In some underdeveloped areas, it can be a mainstay of the local economy. And it is a basis for big business as the millions and millions of people seeking the outdoors generate an estimated $20 billion a year market for goods and services.

Outdoor Recreation Is a Major Leisure Time Activity, and It Is Growing in Importance.

About 90 percent of all Americans participated in some form of outdoor recreation in the summer of 1960. In total, they participated in one activity or another on 4.4 billion separate occasions. It is anticipated that by 1976 the total will be 6.9 billion, and by the year 2000 it will be 12.4 billion—a threefold increase by the turn of the century.

More Needs To Be Known About the Values of Outdoor Recreation.

As outdoor recreation increases in importance, it will need more land, but much of this land can be used, and will be demanded, for other purposes. Yet there is little research to provide basic information on its relative importance. More needs to be established factually about the values of outdoor recreation to our society, so that sounder decisions on allocation of resources for it can be made. More must be known about management techniques, so that the maximum social and economic benefit can be realized from these resources.


After 3 years of research, and an aggregate of some 50 days of discussion among the Commissioners, the Commission has developed specific recommendations for a recreation program. The 15 members brought differing political, social and resource-use opinions to the meeting table, and proposed recommendations were put through the test of this range of opinions. During the course of the study and discussion, views of individual members developed, and the collective opinion crystallized. The final recommendations are a consensus of the Commission.

In the process of evolving recommendations, the Commission's Advisory Council played an important role. It consisted of 25 individuals representative of mining, timber, grazing, business, and labor interests as well as of recreation and conservation groups. The Council also included top-level representatives of 15 Federal agencies which have a responsibility relating to the provision of outdoor recreation. In five 2-day meetings with the Commission, the Council reviewed tentative proposals and suggested alternative courses of action on several occasions. The advice of the Council had a marked effect on the final product.

State Contact Officers also contributed to the decision-making process. In a series of regional meetings, at which the Commission sought their advice on pressing issues, they put forward practical and urgent suggestions for action.

In many cases the recommendations are general; in others they are specific. For various reasons, the recommendations tend to be more detailed and more extensive regarding the Federal Government. The Commission wishes to emphasize, however, that the key elements in the total effort to make outdoor recreation opportunities available are private enterprise, the States, and local government. In relation to them, the role of the Federal agencies should be not one of domination but of cooperation and assistance in meeting their respective needs.

The recommendations of the Commission fall into five general categories—

A National Outdoor Recreation Policy.
Guidelines for the Management of Outdoor Recreation Resources.
Expansion, Modification, and Intensification of Present Programs to Meeting Increasing Needs.
Establishment of a Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in the Federal Government.
A Federal Grants-in-Aid Program to States.

The body of this report presents the reasoning and significance of these recommendations. To those who would like a quick over-all picture of the recommendations, the following digest will prove helpful.


It shall be the national policy, through the conservation and wise use of resources, to preserve, develop, and make accessible to all American people such quantity and quality of outdoor recreation as will be necessary and desirable for individual enjoyment and to assure the physical, cultural, and spiritual benefits of outdoor recreation.

Implementation of this policy will require the cooperative participation of all levels of government and private enterprise. In some aspects, the government responsibility is greater; in others, private initiative is better equipped to do the job.

The role of the Federal Government should be—

  1. Preservation of scenic areas, natural wonders, primitive areas, and historic sites of national significance.
  2. Management of Federal lands for the broadest possible recreation benefit consistent with other essential uses.
  3. Cooperation with the States through technical and financial assistance.
  4. Promotion of interstate arrangements, including Federal participation where necessary.
  5. Assumption of vigorous, cooperative leadership in a nationwide recreation effort.

The States should play a pivotal role in making outdoor recreation opportunities available by—

  1. Acquisition of land, development of sites, and provision and maintenance of facilities of State or regional significance.
  2. Assistance to local governments.
  3. Provision of leadership and planning.

Local governments should expand their efforts to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, with particular emphasis upon securing open space and developing recreation areas in and around metropolitan and other urban areas.

Individual initiative and private enterprise should continue to be the most important force in outdoor recreation, providing many and varied opportunities for a vast number of people, as well as the goods and services used by people in their recreation activities. Government should encourage the work of nonprofit groups wherever possible. It should also stimulate desirable commercial development, which can be particularly effective in providing facilities and services where demand is sufficient to return a profit.


All agencies administering outdoor recreation resources—public and private—are urged to adopt a system of classifying recreation lands designed to make the best possible use of available resources the light of the needs of people. Present jurisdictional boundaries of agencies need not be disturbed, but where necessary, use should be changed in accordance with the classification.

Implementation of this system would be a major step forward in a coordinated national recreation effort. It would provide a consistent and effective method of planning for all land-managing agencies and would promote logical adjustment of the entire range of recreation activities to the entire range of available areas. Under this approach of recreation zoning, the qualities of the respective classes of recreation environments are identified and therefore more readily enhanced and protected.

The following system of classifying outdoor recreation resources is proposed—

Class I—High-Density Recreation Areas

Areas intensively developed and managed for mass use.

Class II—General Outdoor Recreation Areas

Areas subject to substantial development for a wide variety of specific recreation uses.

Class III—Natural Environment Areas

Various types of areas that are suitable for recreation in a natural environment and usually in combination with other uses.

Class IV—Unique Natural Areas

Areas of outstanding scenic splendor, natural wonder, or scientific importance.

Class V—Primitive Areas

Undisturbed roadless areas characterized by natural, wild conditions, including "wilderness areas."

Class VI—Historic and Cultural Sites

Sites of major historic or cultural significance, either local, regional, or national.



  1. Each State, through a central agency, should develop a long-range plan for outdoor recreation, to provide adequate opportunities for the public, to acquire additional areas where necessary, and to preserve outstanding natural sites.
  2. Local governments should give greater emphasis to the needs of their citizens for outdoor recreation by considering it in all land-use planning, opening areas with recreation potential to use, and where necessary, acquiring new areas.
  3. States should seek to work out interstate arrangements where the recreation-seeking public overflows political boundaries. The Federal Government should assist in meeting these interstate demand situations.
  4. Systematic and continuing research, both fundamental and applied, should be promoted to provide the basis for sound planning and decisions.
  5. Immediate action should be taken by Federal, State, and local governments to reserve or acquire additional water, beach, and shoreline areas, particularly near centers of population.
  6. Full provision for acquiring shoreline lands for public access and use should be made in reservoir developments.
  7. Surface rights to surplus Federal lands suitable for recreation should be transferred without cost to State or local governments with reversion clauses.
  8. Open space programs for metropolitan areas should be continued.
  9. Congress should enact legislation to provide for the establishment and preservation of certain primitive areas as "wilderness areas."
  10. Certain rivers of unusual scientific, aesthetic, and recreation value should be allowed to remain in their free-flowing and natural setting without man-made alterations.
  11. States should use their regulatory power to zone areas for maximum recreation benefit, maintain quality, and ensure public safety in conflicts between recreation and other uses and in conflicts among recreation uses.
  12. Recreation areas should be strongly defended against encroachments from nonconforming uses, both public and private. Where recreation land must be taken for another public use, it should be replaced with other land of similar quality and comparable location.
  13. Public agencies should assure adequate access to water-based recreation opportunities by acquisition of access areas, easements across private lands, zoning of shorelines, consideration of water access in road design and construction, and opening of now restricted waters such as municipal reservoirs.
  14. Interpretive and educational programs should be intensified and broadened to promote appreciation and understanding of natural, scientific, and historic values.


  15. Outdoor recreation should be emphasized in federally constructed or licensed multipurpose water developments and thus granted full consideration in the planning, design, and construction of such projects.
  16. Recreation should be recognized as a motivating purpose in programs and projects for pollution control and as a necessary objective in the allocation of funds therefor.
  17. Flood-plain zoning should be used wherever possible as a method to preserve attractive reaches of rivers and streams for public recreation in addition to the other benefits from such zoning.
  18. The Federal Government and the States should recognize the potential recreation values in highway construction programs and assure that they are developed.
  19. Activities under watershed and other agricultural conservation programs should be oriented toward greater recreation benefits for the public.
  20. The States should encourage the public use of private lands by taking the lead in working out such arrangements as leases for hunting and fishing, scenic easements, and providing protection for landowners who allow the public to use their lands.


  21. All levels of government must provide continuing and adequate funds for outdoor recreation. In most cases, this will require a substantial increase over present levels.
  22. State and local governments should consider the use of general obligation and revenue bonds to finance land acquisition and capital improvements for outdoor recreation.
  23. State and local governments should consider other financing devices such as season user fees, dedicated funds, and use of uncollected refunds of gasoline taxes paid by pleasure boat owners.
  24. States should take the lead in extending technical and financial assistance to local governments to meet outdoor recreation requirements.
  25. Public agencies should adopt a system of user fees designated to recapture at least a significant portion of the operation and maintenance costs of providing outdoor recreation activities that involve the exclusive use of a facility, or require special facilities.
  26. In addition to outright acquisition, local governments should consider the use of such devices as easements, zoning, cluster developments, and open-land tax policies to supplement the supply of outdoor recreation opportunities.
  27. Public agencies should stimulate desirable gifts of land and money from private individuals and groups for outdoor recreation purposes. The work of private, nonprofit organizations in providing and enhancing opportunities should be encouraged.
  28. Government should stimulate and encourage the provision of outdoor recreation opportunities by private enterprise.
  29. Where feasible, concessioners should be encouraged to provide facilities and visitor services on Federal lands under appropriate supervision. Where this is not feasible, the Federal Government should build facilities and lease them to private business for operation.


A Bureau of Outdoor Recreation should be established in the Department of the Interior. This Bureau would have over-all responsibility for leadership of a nationwide effort by coordinating the various Federal programs and assisting other levels of government to meet the demands for outdoor recreation. It would not manage any land. This would continue to be the function of the existing managerial agencies. Specifically, the new Bureau would—

  1. Coordinate the recreation activities of the more than 20 Federal agencies whose activities affect outdoor recreation.
  2. Assist State and local governments with technical aid in planning and administration, including the development of standards for personnel, procedures, and operations.
  3. Administer a grants-in-aid program to States for planning and for development and acquisition of needed areas.
  4. Act as a clearinghouse for information and guide, stimulate, and sponsor research as needed.
  5. Encourage interstate and regional cooperation, including Federal participation where necessary.

To assure that recreation policy and planning receive attention at a high level and to promote interdepartmental coordination, there should be established a Recreation Advisory Council, consisting of the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, and Defense, with the Secretary of the Interior as Chairman. Other agencies would be invited to participate on an ad hoc basis when matters affecting their interests are under consideration by the Council.

The Recreation Advisory Council would provide broad policy guidance on all matters affecting outdoor recreation activities and programs carried out by the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. The Secretary of the Interior should be required to seek such guidance in the administration of the Bureau.

Initially the new Bureau should be staffed where possible by transfer of experienced personnel from existing Federal agencies. It should have regional offices.

A Research Advisory Committee consisting of professional people from government, academic life, and private business should be established to advise the Bureau on its research activities.

It is urged that each State designate a focal point within its governmental structure to work with the Bureau. This focal point, perhaps one of the existing State agencies, could also serve to coordinate State recreation planning and activities and be responsible for a comprehensive State outdoor recreation plan.


A Federal grants-in-aid program should be established to stimulate and assist the States in meeting the demand for outdoor recreation. This program, administered by the proposed Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, would promote State planning and acquisition and development of areas to meet the demands of the public. Projects would be approved in accordance with a statewide plan. They would be subject to review by the proposed Bureau of Outdoor Recreation to ensure conformance with Federal standards. This program would complement and would be closely coordinated with the open space aid provisions of recent legislation.

Initial grants of up to 75 percent of the total cost for planning would be made the first year and a reduced percentage thereafter. Grants for acquisition or development would be made up to 40 percent of the total cost. Federal participation could be raised to 50 percent where the State acquisition or development was part of an interstate plan.

Funds for the program would be allocated on a basis which would take into account State population, area, needs, and the amount of Federal land and Federal recreation programs in the State and region.

The grants-in-aid program should be supplemented by a program of loans to the States. This would assist in projects where the States did not have matching funds available but where the need for acquisition or development was particularly urgent, or where funds were needed beyond those available as grants-in-aid.

National Park Service Archives, Harpers Ferry, ORRRC Files, 1-10.

NEXT>Advisory Board on Wildlife Management - Leopold Report, 1963


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

National Park Service's ParkNet Home