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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 6:
The Ecological Revolution: 1964 - 1969
National Park Service Arrowhead


July 10, 1964

To: Director, National Park Service
From: Secretary of the Interior
Subject: Management of the National Park System

As the golden anniversary of the National Park Service draws near, and we approach the final years of the MISSION 66 program, it is appropriate to take stock of the events of the past and to plan for the future. The accomplishments of the past are not only a source of pride—they are also a source of guidance for the future.

The accelerating rate of change in our society today poses a major challenge to the National Park Service and its evolving responsibilities for the management of the National Park System. The response to such changes calls for clarity of purpose, increasing knowledge, speedier action and adaptability to changing needs and demands upon our diverse resources.

In recognition of this need, a year ago I approved a comprehensive study of the long-range objectives, organization and management of the National Park Service. Moreover, I was pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in the CONFERENCE OF CHALLENGES at Yosemite National Park, at which this study was discussed by the personnel of the Service.

In looking back at the legislative enactments that have shaped the National Park System, it is clear that the Congress has included within the growing System three different categories of areas—natural, historical, and recreational.

Natural areas are the oldest category, reaching back to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park almost a century ago. A little later historical areas began to be authorized, culminating in the broad charter for historical preservation set forth in the Historic Sites Act of 1935. In recent decades, with exploding population and diminishing open space, the urgent need for national recreation areas is receiving new emphasis and attention.

The long-range study has brought into sharp focus the fact that a single, broad management concept encompassing these three categories of areas within the System is inadequate either for their proper preservation or for realization of their full potential for public use as embodied in the expressions of Congressional policy. Each of these categories requires a separate management concept and a separate set of management principles coordinated to form one organic management plan for the entire System.

Following the Act of August 25, 1916, establishing the National Park Service, the then Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane, in a letter of May 13, 1918, to the first Director of the National Park Service, Stephen T. Mather, outlined the management principles which were to guide the Service in its management of the areas then included within the System. That letter, sometimes called the Magna Carta of the National Parks, is quoted, in part, as follows:

For the information of the public an outline of the administrative policy to which the new Service will adhere may now be announced. This policy is based on three broad principles: First, that 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, that they are set apart for the use, observation, health, and pleasure of the people; and third, that the national interest must dictate all decisions affecting public or private enterprise in the parks.

The principles enunciated in this letter have been fully supported over the years by my predecessors. They are still applicable for us today, and I reaffirm them.

Consistent with specific Congressional enactments, the following principles are approved for your guidance in the management of the three categories of areas now included within the system. Utilizing the results of the new broad program of resource studies, you should proceed promptly to develop such detailed guidelines as may be needed for the operation of each of these categories of areas.


Resource Management: The management and use of natural areas shall be guided by the 1918 directive of Secretary Lane. Additionally, management shall be directed toward maintaining, and where necessary re-establishing, indigenous plant and animal life, in keeping with the March 4, 1963, recommendations of the Advisory Board on Wildlife Management.

In those areas having significant historical resources, management shall be patterned after that of the historical areas category to the extent compatible with the primary purpose for which the area was established.

Resource Use: Provide for all appropriate use and enjoyment by the people, that can be accommodated without impairment of the natural values. Park management shall recognize and respect wilderness as a whole environment of living things whose use and enjoyment depend on their continuing interrelationship free of man's spoliation.

Physical Developments: They shall be limited to those that are necessary and appropriate, and provided only under carefully controlled safeguards against unregulated and indiscriminate use, so that the least damage to park values will be caused. Location, design, and material, to the highest practicable degree, shall be consistent with the preservation and conservation of the grandeur of the natural environment.


Resource Management: Management shall be directed toward maintaining and where necessary restoring the historical integrity of structures, sites and objects significant to the commemoration or illustration of the historical story.

Resource Use: Visitor uses shall be those which seek fulfillment in authentic presentations of historic structures, objects and sites, and the memorialization of historic individuals or events. Visitor use of significant natural resources should be encouraged when such use can be accommodated without detriment to historical values.

Physical Developments: Physical developments shall be those necessary for achieving the management and use objectives.


Resource Management: Outdoor recreation shall be recognized as the dominant or primary resource management objective. Natural resources within the area may be utilized and managed for additional purposes where such additional uses are compatible with fulfilling the recreation mission of the area. Scenic, historical, scientific, scarce, or disappearing resources within recreational areas shall be managed compatible with the primary recreation mission of the area.

Resource Use: Primary emphasis shall be placed on active participation in outdoor recreation in a pleasing environment.

Physical Developments: Physical developments shall promote the realization of the management and use objectives. The scope and type of developments, as well as their design, materials, and construction, should enhance and promote the use and enjoyment of the recreational resources of the area.


While the establishment of management principles to guide the operation of the three categories of areas within the System is vital, I believe it is of equal consequence that we now identify the long-range objectives of the National Park Service. The objectives developed by the Service have been recommended to me by my Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments. I am approving these objectives, as follows:

  1. To provide for the highest quality of use and enjoyment of the National Park System by increased millions of visitors in years to come.
  2. To conserve and manage for their highest purpose the Natural, Historical and Recreational resources of the National Park System.
  3. To develop the National Park System through inclusion of additional areas of scenic, scientific, historical and recreational value to the Nation.
  4. To participate actively with organizations of this and other Nations in conserving, improving and renewing the total environment.
  5. To communicate the cultural, inspirational, and recreational significance of the American Heritage as represented in the National Park System.
  6. To increase the effectiveness of the National Park Service as a "people serving" organization dedicated to park conservation, historical preservation, and outdoor recreation.

You should develop such goals and procedures as may be necessary to implement these objectives.

In the development of these goals and procedures, I think it is important to emphasize that effective management of the National Park System will not be achieved by programs that look only within the parks without respect to the pressures, the influences, and the needs beyond park boundaries. The report of my Advisory Board on Wildlife Management emphasizes this observation.

The concern of the National Park Service is the wilderness, the wildlife, the history, the recreational opportunities, etc., within the areas of the System and the appropriate uses of these re-sources. The responsibilities of the Service, however, cannot be achieved solely within the boundaries of the areas it administers.

The Service has an equal obligation to stand as a vital, vigorous, effective force in the cause of preserving the total environment of our Nation. The concept of the total environment includes not only the land, but also the water and the air, the past as well as the present, the useful as well as the beautiful, the wonders of man as well as the wonders of nature, the urban environment as well as the natural landscape. I am pleased that among its contributions, the Service is identifying National Historic and Natural History Landmarks throughout the country and is cooperating in the Historic American Buildings Survey.

It is obvious that the staggering demand for outdoor recreation projected for this country will eventually inundate public park areas unless public and private agencies and individuals join in common effort. National park administrators must seek methods to achieve close cooperation with all land-managing agencies, considering broad regional needs, if lands for public outdoor recreation sufficient to the future needs of the Nation are to be provided.

The national parklands have a major role in providing superlative opportunities for outdoor recreation, but they have other "people serving" values. They can provide an experience in conservation education for the young people of the country; they can enrich our literary and artistic consciousness; they can help create social values; contribute to our civic consciousness; remind us of our debt to the land of our fathers.

Preserving the scenic and scientific grandeur of our Nation, presenting its history, providing healthful outdoor recreation for the enjoyment of our people, working with others to provide the best possible relationships of human beings to their total environment; this is the theme which binds together the management principles and objectives of the National Park Service—this, for the National Park Service, is the ROAD TO THE FUTURE.

Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior

National Park Service Handbook of Administrative Policies for Natural Areas, 1968, 76-80.

NEXT>Wilderness Act, 1964


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

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