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Progress In The Development Of The National Parks (Classic Reprint)

The great attraction of the national parks was spectacular scenery. Over time, however, the parks also became important nature preserves. Several recent works have looked at the history of ecological management in the parks. Richard West Sellars, Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), is one; James A. Pritchard, Preserving Yellowstone's Natural Conditions: Science and the Perception of Nature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), is another.

Progress in the Development of the National Parks (Classic Reprint)

Historians agree that three developments after World War II encouraged the rise of the modern environmental movement. As the economy boomed, newly affluent Americans became less willing to accept environmental degradation as the price of progress. New technologies -- from the atomic bomb to chemical pesticides -- brought new environmental hazards. The popularization of ecological ideas also gave countless citizens a new appreciation of the risks of transforming and manipulating nature.

If you've ever been to a national park and stopped off in the gift shop, you may have seen drawings of iconic park sights for sale as posters or post cards. The brightly colored print reproductions showcase the parks' impressive vistas, such as Yellowstone's Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Canyon's overlooks.

History: Department of the Interior responsibilities for nationalparks, beginning with Yellowstone National Park, established byan act of March 1, 1872 (17 Stat. 32), were initially under theimmediate supervision of the Secretary of the Interior, exercisedthrough the Patents and Miscellaneous Division. In 1907 thefunctions were transferred to the Miscellaneous Section of theOffice of the Chief Clerk. Position of General Superintendent andLandscape Engineer of National Parks, headquartered in SanFrancisco, CA, filled by appointment of Mark Daniels on June 4,1914. Replaced by Robert B. Marshall, with office transferred toWashington, DC, as Superintendent of National Parks, December 10,1915. NPS originally established in the Department of theInterior by an act of August 25, 1916 (39 Stat. 535). Marshallresigned December 31, 1916. Funds provided for NPS operations inan appropriation act of April 17, 1917 (40 Stat. 20). Stephen T.Mather, Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior since January1915, appointed first NPS Director, May 26, 1917. NPSredesignated Office of National Parks, Buildings, andReservations by EO 6166, June 10, 1933, with functions expandedto include administration of areas formerly under the ForestService and the War Department, and numerous sites in and nearWashington, DC. Original name restored, 1934. See 79.1.

Textual Records: Letters received by the Office of the Secretaryof the Interior, principally by the Patent and MiscellaneousDivision, relating to national parks, 1872-1907, with registersand indexes, 1905-7. Records of the Office of the Chief Clerk,1887-1916.

Textual Records: State park file, 1933-47 (206 ft.). Projectreports of CCC projects in local and state parks, 1933-37.Narrative reports on ECW projects in NPS areas, 1933-35. Recordsconcerning water matters, 1936-49. Program files, 1934-47. Landpurchase, 1934-36, land transfer, 1943-50, and other records,1934-42, relating to Recreational Demonstration Areas. Classifiedfiles, 1936-37, monthly reports, 1936-41, and other records,1935-42, of the Recreational Area Study. General records of theDevelopment Division, including memorandums, 1936-42; and recordsrelating to Civilian Public Service Camps, 1941-48. Records ofthe Project Applications Section, Development Division, includinggeneral records, 1935-43; inspection reports, 1934-39; recordsrelating to active and abandoned CCC camps, 1934-44; and campprogram memorandums, 1933-42. Records of the Work ControlSection, Development Division, consisting of federal projectrecords, 1934-43; and state and local project records, 1937-44.Records of the Progress Records and Cost Analyses Section,Development Division, consisting of ECW progress and costreports, 1933-37; records concerning project progress and costs,1934-42; and statistical information, 1935-41. Records of theSupervisor of Project Training, including general records, 1935-42; job outlines, 1936-42; and records relating to the ProjectTraining ("P.T.") Series publications, 1936-42. Index cardsrelating to state parks and recreation areas ("History Cards"),1935-40. Land acquisition case files for the ChopawansicRecreation Demonstration Project, VA, 1925-49, and the CatoctinRecreation Demonstration Project, MD, 1925-49.

Textual Records (in Kansas City): Central classified filesrelating to national parks and monuments, 1931-52. Recordsrelating to recreation, land use, and state cooperation, 1932-53.Regional administration files, 1937-52. Administrative andprogram files, Office of the Director, Region II, 1952-64. Special reference files, 1932-62. Regulations, issuances, and instructions relating to ECW and CCCactivities, 1933-43.

Textual Records (in Denver):Central classified files, 1935-61. Subject correspondence files, 1927-61. Correspondence and reports relating to Civilian Conservation Corps camps and other conservation work, 1933-43. Correspondence relating to emergency relief appropriation programs, 1936-42. Correspondence relating to national parks, monuments, and recreational areas, 1927-53. Correspondence relating to projects and proposed parks in Oklahoma, 1933-53. Correspondence relating to Civilian Conservation Corps, emergency conservative work, and Emergency Relief Administration projects in national parks, forests, monuments, and recreation areas, 1933-43. Correspondence relating to Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-44. Correspondence relating to the liquidation of Civilian Conservation Corps, 1941-45. Correspondence and reports relating to operating budgets and appropriations, 1956-58.Correspondence and reports relating to land and water use matters, recreational areas, and archeological studies, 1953-61. Correspondence relating to public use, boards and cooperative programs, and park policies, 1924-63. Final construction completion reports, 1932-57.

Textual Records (in San Francisco, except as noted): Centralfiles, 1927-63 (516 ft.). Narrative reports received from otherregional offices, 1949-53. Vegetation surveys, 1935-53. Recordsrelating to recreation, land use, and state cooperation, 1932-44.Records of the Engineering Branch, including field notebooks,1913-66; irrigation project files, 1935-53; and records relatingto roads in national parks and monuments, 1927-40. Records of theBranch of Plans and Design, consisting of monthly narrativereports of resident landscape architects, 1927-40. Central filesof the regional wildlife technician, 1929-41. Records of theregional naturalist, consisting of wildlife files, 1929-40;wildlife census summary cards, 1930-40; and monthly activityreports of park naturalists, 1935-53. Central files of theRegional Geologist, 1936-40. Records of the Western MuseumLaboratories, consisting of central files, 1923-42; and (inWashington Area) correspondence, 1935-37, and press releases,1940-41, relating to the work of photographer William HenryJackson. Legal correspondence, 1954-61. Land correspondence,1953-62. Administrative correspondence, 1954-62. Constructioncorrespondence, 1958-63. Exhibits correspondence, 1956-62. Developmental and maintenance correspondence, 1960-62.

Maps: National Capital Parks system numbered mapand drawing file, including DC monument grounds, parks, citysquares, triangles, circles, numbered reservations, roads, andwalks; Columbia and Roosevelt Islands in the Potomac River; theChesapeake and Ohio Canal Parkway; Arlington National Cemetery,Manassas National Military Park, Fort Hunt, and Fort Belvoir, VA;Antietam National Cemetery and Fort Washington, MD; Harpers FerryHistorical Park, WV; and Fort Jefferson Monument, FL, 1797-1958(16,725 items). Master and progress plans for Washington, DC,1936-37 (90 items). DC recreation system plan, 1930-41 (89items). Rock Creek pollution studies, 1935 (66 items). See Also79.14.

Photographs: NPS general photographic file ofhistoric sites, national parks, recreation areas, battlefields,monuments, and parkways, and of NPS employees, consisting of theCharles Porter Collection, the Retired TV File, the T.J. HilemanCollection, the Frank J. Haynes Collection, the James E. ThompsonCollection, the Stephen T. Mather Collection, the FreelancePhotographers Collection, and the Miscellaneous Collection, 1880-1962 (G, 11,905 images). John Wesley Powell and family, 1859-98(JWP, 7 images). State recreational facilities in the UnitedStates, 1935-36 (SP, 3,200 images). Facilities in state andnational parks, 1900-45 (HB, MI; 143 images). Survey photographsof land adjacent to the Alaska Highway, by J. Diederich, 1943(AH, 200 images). Daily activities of Presidents Franklin D.Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F.Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson, by NPS White House Press Officephotographer Abbie Rowe, 1941-67 (AR, XAR; 33,000 images). Viewsof national parks, park visitors, Department of the Interior andNPS officials, military use of parks during World War II, and theGolden Gate International Exposition, 1934-57 (M, 244 images).

Photographic Prints, Negatives, Transparencies, and LanternSlides: Henry G. Peabody Collection of scenicviews of national parks and other natural areas; cities; harbors,beaches, and other topographical features; historic sites andlandmarks; American Indians; California missions; and areas inCanada and Mexico, 1890-1937 (HPA, HPM, HPP, HPS, 3,467 images).

The legacy of wilderness in America thought and policy is complex, with some parts that have many opponents (for example, the erasure of indigenous cultures and histories) and some that have very wide appeal (for example, the national parks). The writings of Thoreau, Muir and Leopold have enriched and enchanted the lives of many Americans. The National Wilderness Preservation System has been remarkably successful at preserving large roadless areas, and many conservation biologists see an extension of this strategy as the best hope for protecting biodiversity. Others have found the cultural baggage of wilderness too great, and would prefer to take other strategies, hoping to better integrate the human economy with natural systems. Clearly wilderness preservation cannot solve all environmental problems, such as environmental injustice or climate change, but it may help with a lot of problems, even those.

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