On August 25, 1916, a bill, known glamorously as the Organic Act, was signed into law creating the National Park Service – the first federal bureau with a mission of conservation and connecting Americans to nature. Charged with a mission 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” the agency grew over the next century from managing 35 national park sites to over 400 in all 50 states today. These sites preserve places of supreme beauty and unique natural features, tell stories important to our history as a nation, and help us remember the people and events that have shaped us.
When Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, it was the first national park in the world. This makes the whole idea that parks should belong collectively to all citizens instead of a privileged few a new idea, and uniquely American one. Author Wallace Stegner called it “the best idea America ever had,” and while it has begun to be duplicated around the world, there is quite simply no other country in the world with a national park system like ours.
The great naturalist John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
So, as we celebrate the 100th birthday of the agency charged with maintaining these places for us, may we…..
Be filled with gratitude to the men and women who wear the flat hat today, serving, protecting, working, and making decisions with our great grandchildren in mind
Be grateful for OUR park – wherever that may be – the one that has spoken to us, nourished us, enlightened us, rejuvenated us, inspired us, connected us, broken us, or made us simply feel truly alive
May we never take for granted these gifts we have been given.
And may we carry on the tradition of unselfishly guarding these gifts for our children….
Have you found YOUR park? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Haven’t found your park yet? Then head to www.nps.gov to begin the journey.