Challenge of the Big Trees
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Chapter Four:
Parks and Forests: Protection Begins


The Sierran Parks and Creation of the National Park Service

The story of the creation of the National Park Service has been told many times, so it is not necessary to detail that story here. Sequoia did play a part in the campaign to create the National Park Service, however, and that part is worthy of brief summary, for it sheds light on the condition of the park itself. In the summer of 1915, hoping both to forward the campaign for a National Park Service and to give wider exposure to the beauties and potential of Sequoia National Park, Stephen T. Mather, hard at work on his campaign to create a national park bureau, brought to Sequoia a party of twenty-five carefully chosen men. Among them were the head of the House Committee on Appropriations, vice-president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, president of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Chief of the U.S. Geological Survey, and editor of National Geographic Magazine. For twelve days, at Mather's expense, the party traveled by pack train from Giant Forest to Mt. Whitney and finally to Lone Pine. Along the way they saw what Sequoia needed, and what it could become. All came away convinced of the value of national parks in general and Sequoia in particular. At the end of a second, similar Sequoia trip the following summer, Mather learned that President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Act on August 25, 1916.

That act, which created the National Park Service, had been carefully drafted by Mather and his advisors to codify the national park concept in a way that separated the parks from the national forests. The new legislation made the difference clear:

The Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. [78]

Critical to the national park concept that Mather and Albright held was a balance between the seemingly contradictory goals of resource preservation and visitor use. Preservation was the long-term goal they sought, but both felt strongly that visitor use must play an important role in the parks. In this way creation of the National Park Service would lead to a period of unprecedented visitor development in Sequoia and General Grant national parks.


Challenge of the Big Trees
©1990, Sequoia Natural History Association
dilsaver-tweed/chap4m.htm — 12-Jul-2004