Table of Contents



Biographical Vignettes

Recommendations for
Further Reading

Parks and People

Evolution of a National Park Concept

Wildiands Designated...But Vulnerable

Creating a Service to Manage the System

Expanding the Scope

Revising the Mission

Rehabilitation and Expansion

Partners and Alliances

National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Wildlands Designated...But Vulnerable
National Park Service Arrowhead

Parks and People:
Preserving Our Past For The Future

                                          by Barry Mackintosh

Sixth U.S. Cavalry, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, 1899.

Wildlands Designated...But Vulnerable

Capt. Charles Young
Capt. Charles Young.

By 1916 the Interior Department was responsible for 14 national parks and 21 national monuments. This collection of areas was not a true park system, however, for it lacked systematic management. Without an organization capable of caring for the parks, secretaries of the interior had been forced to ask the United States Army to detail troops to several of them, beginning with Yellowstone in 1886. Army engineers and cavalrymen developed park roads and buildings like Fort Yellowstone, enforced regulations against hunting, grazing, timber cutting, and vandalism, and did their best to serve the visiting public. Civilian appointees of varying capabilities superintended the other parks, while most of the monuments received minimal custody. In the absence of an effective central administration, those in charge operated with little coordinated supervision or policy guidance.

John Muir
John Muir.

Lacking unified leadership, the parks were also vulnerable to competing interests. Conservationists of the utilitarian school, who advocated the regulated use of natural resources to achieve "the greatest good for the greatest number," favored the construction of dams by public authorities for water supply, power, and irrigation purposes. When the city of San Francisco sought permission to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park for its water supply after the turn of the century, the utilitarian and preservationist wings of the conservation movement came to blows. "Dam Hetch Hetchy!" cried John Muir in opposition. "As well dam for water tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man."

J. Horace McFarland
J. Horace McFarland.

In 1913, however, Congress approved what historian John Ise has called "the worst disaster ever to come to any national park."

The "rape of Hetch Hetchy," as the preservationists termed it, pointed up the institutional weakness of the park movement. While utilitarian conservation had become well represented in government by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Forest and Reclamation services, no comparable entity spoke for park preservation in Washington. The need for an organization to operate the parks and advocate their interests was clearer than ever.



Last Modified: Dec 1 2000 10:00:00 pm PDT

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