As a frequent visitor to national parks, I have been watching the anticipation build over the last few years as we approach the centennial of the National Park Service (NPS). Today marks 100 years since the passage of “An Act To establish a National Park Service, and for other purposes” (64 Stat. 408), signed into law by Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916. Today in History provides information about a hearing before the House Committee on Public Lands on April 5 and 6, 1916 that helped pass the law. The purpose of the law is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
In 1916, there were already 35 national parks and monuments including Yellowstone, Mackinac Island, Yosemite, Mount Rainer, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Devils Tower, El Morro, and Montezuma Castle. Today there are 413 areas with designations such as national parks, monuments, preserves, reserves, lakeshores, seashores, rivers, wild and scenic riverways, scenic trails, historic sites and parks, military parks, memorials, recreation areas, and parkways.
The NPS is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Our historical Statutes at Large collection has the laws that founded national parks after the creation of the NPS, including Grand Canyon National Park. You can use Congress.gov to track the status of the legislation about the NPS. In particular, there is a current pending bill called the National Park Service Centennial Act and you can get alerts to track its progress through Congress.
Within National Parks, United States Park Police protect the parks and enforce the rules. The Park Police are located in Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco, working with park rangers in all national parks. The current rules and regulations are in Title 36 of the CFR: Parks, Forests, and Public Property, volume 1, chapter 1, part 1.
Interested in learning more? The Library of Congress has a Pinterest board celebrating America’s parks. A search for “National Park Service” on Congress.gov will show current and past legislation. And the NPS website is of course celebrating!
In 2015 the NPS saw more than 307 million recreation visitors. Will you “find your park” in 2016?