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The National Park









THE NATIONAL PARK wilderness NPS Arrowhead logo

When we started our basic studies for the program we now call MISSION 66, our first step was to review the laws which form the foundation and provide the guidelines for management and development of the Nation's National Parks. All of these laws emphasize the preservation of wilderness values. Clearly it is the will of the American people, as expressed by many acts of Congress, that the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service shall preserve the wilderness values of the National Park System for the enjoyment of the people.

How well has this been done? This booklet is a brief summary of our intensive study of the 85-year record. In this we recognize some mistakes which, in most instances, we now judge from the position of a "Monday morning quarterback." However, the fact remains that over all these years those who had the responsibility for directing the destinies of the parks demonstrated keen appreciation of the importance of preserving the Nation's scenic heritage. Their devotion to principle and purpose merits honor to their names. I have in mind, particularly, the Directors of the National Park Service during the first 35 years of development and growth.

Today, as the National Park Service enters its 42nd year, there is much serious public concern with the problem of preserving the Nation's remaining wilderness regions. Therefore, as custodian of the superlative wild lands of the United States, I feel that a statement on the subject is timely. In the pages which follow we attempt to define our particular concept of wilderness. This is necessary because the word means many things to different people and as applied to various classifications of lands. As our lands are "dedicated and set apart," we must judge as nonconforming such uses as hunting, mining, grazing, logging, water and power developments, and other commercial exploitation. I am convinced that the fundamental concept of National Park wilderness has never been more clearly defined than in this publication.

The future will present many and difficult problems. However, I know that the same major factors which have governed the writing of a fine record in the past will also control the future. First, there is every indication that the public attitude in favor of preservation of the parks will become stronger. This firm intent will certainly be reflected in Congress. I also am confident that the many men and women, acting individually and through organizations, will be willing to give as freely of themselves and their means for protection of our Nation's parks in the years ahead as in the past. Finally, the Service employee today is as dedicated to his job as those who established our traditions and wrote our history and in many respects is better trained and equipped to meet the problems of management. There is every assurance that the future will find the men and women of this Service capable of the wise judgments necessary for the preservation of this heritage of ours.

May the public interest in America's remaining wilderness areas continue to grow in the years ahead, and may the National Parks forever be able to provide an outlet for those who would adventure in the wilds far beyond a road's end.

Conrad L. Wirth
Conrad L. Wirth

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Last Modified: Sat, Feb 1 2003 10:00:00 pm PDT

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