The Importance Of National Parks Essay

Image Credit: Ansel Adams

On January 3, the 115th Congress met for their first session and voted on changes to the rules for the House of Representatives. Among those rules is a section on the “Treatment of Conveyances of Federal Land.” What does this mean? The new rule authorizes the transfer of federal lands to states, local government, or tribal entities without affecting the federal budget.

It seems innocent enough. But this new change could potentially affect the current 640 million acres of federal lands. On January 24, Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill to turn 3.3 million acres of federal lands over to their respective states. After receiving protests from many of his constituents, as well as hunting and fishing advocates, Chaffetz announced on Instagram that he would withdraw HR 621.

However, the change in rules for Congress lays the groundwork for more potential bills such as HR 621. Many of the lands that could potentially be affected include open spaces, campgrounds, and national parks. The growing concern over this issue is that states or local governments could not afford the upkeep of these lands, and they could be sold or leased to private interests. In this essay, contributing writer Margot Black discusses how she feels the status of federal lands around the country could change, and why this is an issue that could quickly explode.

If Children are to Save the Planet, We Need to Show it to Them

Since my son was born, I have worked tirelessly to get him away from technology and into nature. Children and families need nature. I have spent the last nine years getting my kid into nature. I have written about it, planned for it, and enjoyed it. I have the photos, fridge magnets, and memories to prove it.

I have traveled across the country with my family and visited national parks from Yosemite, in California, to Dry Tortugas, in Florida, and absorbed every wonder from magnificent manatees to snowy mountain tops to historic trees we could drive through while laughing as a family.

When we connect with nature we are in touch with this planet we call home. It is the foundation of life. Our connection to nature is a vital life force that serves to strengthen and nurture us and our families, both as individuals and as a unit.

If the next generation is to save the planet we need to be able to show it to them. This is not just basic parenting 101, it’s basic human 101.

You cannot introduce your kid to the natural wonders of the world by staring at images of them on a small screen. You must get your children out in it so they can play in it, eat in it, drink in it, swim in it, touch it, feel it, and sleep in it.

They need to be involved in it. They need to be a part of it.

The Problem with Nature Deficit Disorder

One of my early inspirations as a new mom was the journalist and author Richard Louv. He coined the term “nature deficit disorder” and launched an eco-minded revolution in parenting in his book The Last Child in the Woods. It’s a continual bestseller that was brought together a growing body of research, which indicated that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development.

Look, I’m a city girl—born in New York and now living in LA—but I believe in nature and Louv’s book inspired me to travel to travel with my family to national parks across America.

It’s clear that there is a growing absence of nature in the lives of our children today, and those effects are dangerous.

The technology they are plugged into has been shown to cause obesity, attention deficit disorder, and ignorance of how the basic principles of nature work.

We need our open spaces in order to grow and be healthy. We must have a place for humans and animals to feel a safe connection to one another.

That’s what is going to save the world—not looking at them in the zoo. However, the Seattle Zoo, for example, now has more animal space than people space.

But in this most technologically-driven era, nature, open air, and experiencing the elements firsthand is more important than ever.

There’s no way to deny that we are perpetually connected via smartphones, but at the same time, we are all deeply and spiritually connected to the earth.

Preserving our parks should be a priority for every generation. Climate change is a real threat to our planet. Now more than ever we need to care for what we have.

The official Twitter feeds from National Parks employees can be temporarily muted, but the science cannot be denied.

The Profits of National Parks

I work in tourism, and understand one common argument is about profitability. Our parks and open spaces bring in millions of tourist dollars every year.

At stake in this new law are areas which contribute to an estimated $646 billion in economic stimulus each year from recreation on public lands.

The National Park Service’s 410 park sites encompass more than 84 million acres around the country. The most recent data (released February 2016) shows that parks around the country hosted a record-breaking 307.2 million visits in 2015.

In 2014, figures from the National Park Service show that park visitors spent nearly $16 billion in gateway regions. A study conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School found that 95 percent of Americans said it is important to protect national parks for future generations. Additionally, it found that 80 percent of Americans would pay higher federal taxes to ensure the protection and preservation of the National Park System.

Here’s why this is important. Our children’s connection to nature is as important as the four elements and as integral to our lives as the four seasons.

We all benefit from national parks. They are far too important to be sold to the highest bidder. We simply cannot afford to lose lands that we can never get back.

To learn more about America’s national parks, check out:

By Margot Black for



Tags: Margot Black

For other uses, see National park (disambiguation).

A national park is a park in use for conservation purposes. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently, there is a common idea: the conservation of 'wild nature' for posterity and as a symbol of national pride.[1] An international organization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its World Commission on Protected Areas, has defined "National Park" as its Category II type of protected areas.

While this type of national park had been proposed previously, the United States established the first "public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people", Yellowstone National Park, in 1872.[2] Although Yellowstone was not officially termed a "national park" in its establishing law, it was always termed such in practice[3] and is widely held to be the first and oldest national park in the world. However, established by the Mongolian government in 1778, the area surrounding Bogd Khan Uul Mountain located south of the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, is probably the oldest national park, predating Yellowstone by nearly a century.[4][5] The first area to use "national park" in its creation legislation was the U.S.'s Mackinac, in 1875. Australia's Royal National Park, established in 1879, was the world's third official national park.[6] In 1895 ownership of Mackinac National Park was transferred to the State of Michigan as a state park and national park status was consequently lost.[7] As a result, Australia's Royal National Park is by some considerations the second oldest national park now in existence.[7][8][9] Canada established Parks Canada in 1911, becoming the world's first national service dedicated to protecting and presenting natural and historical treasures.[10]

The largest national park in the world meeting the IUCN definition is the Northeast Greenland National Park, which was established in 1974. According to the IUCN, 6,555 national parks worldwide met its criteria in 2006. IUCN is still discussing the parameters of defining a national park.[11]

National parks are almost always open to visitors.[12] Most national parks provide outdoor recreation and camping opportunities[citation needed] as well as classes designed to educate the public on the importance of conservation and the natural wonders of the land in which the national park is located.[citation needed]


In 1969, the IUCN declared a national park to be a relatively large area with the following defining characteristics:[14]

  • One or several ecosystems not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation, where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites and habitats are of special scientific, educational, and recreational interest or which contain a natural landscape of great beauty;
  • Highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate exploitation or occupation as soon as possible in the whole area and to effectively enforce the respect of ecological, geomorphological, or aesthetic features which have led to its establishment; and
  • Visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educative, cultural, and recreative purposes.

In 1971, these criteria were further expanded upon leading to more clear and defined benchmarks to evaluate a national park. These include:

  • Minimum size of 1,000 hectares within zones in which protection of nature takes precedence
  • Statutory legal protection
  • Budget and staff sufficient to provide sufficient effective protection
  • Prohibition of exploitation of natural resources (including the development of dams) qualified by such activities as sport, hunting, fishing, the need for management, facilities, etc.

While the term national park is now defined by the IUCN, many protected areas in many countries are called national park even when they correspond to other categories of the IUCN Protected Area Management Definition, for example:[12][15]

While national parks are generally understood to be administered by national governments (hence the name), in Australia national parks are run by state governments and predate the Federation of Australia; similarly, national parks in the Netherlands are administered by the provinces.[12] In many countries, including Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, national parks do not adhere to the IUCN definition, while some areas which adhere to the IUCN definition are not designated as national parks.[12]


In 1810, the English poet William Wordsworth described the Lake District as a[16]

sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.

The painter George Catlin, in his travels through the American West, wrote during the 1830s that the Native Americans in the United States might be preserved[17]

(by some great protecting policy of government) a magnificent park ...A nation's Park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!

The first effort by the U.S. Federal government to set aside such protected lands was on 20 April 1832, when President Andrew Jackson signed legislation that the 22nd United States Congress had enacted to set aside four sections of land around what is now Hot Springs, Arkansas, to protect the natural, thermal springs and adjoining mountainsides for the future disposal of the U.S. government.[18][19][20] It was known as Hot Springs Reservation, but no legal authority was established. Federal control of the area was not clearly established until 1877.[18]

John Muir is today referred to as the "Father of the National Parks" due to his work in Yosemite.[21] He published two influential articles in The Century Magazine, which formed the base for the subsequent legislation.[22][23]

President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress on 1 July 1864, ceding the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias (later becoming Yosemite National Park) to the state of California. According to this bill, private ownership of the land in this area was no longer possible. The state of California was designated to manage the park for "public use, resort, and recreation". Leases were permitted for up to ten years and the proceeds were to be used for conservation and improvement. A public discussion followed this first legislation of its kind and there was a heated debate over whether the government had the right to create parks. The perceived mismanagement of Yosemite by the Californian state was the reason why Yellowstone at its establishment six years later was put under national control.[24][25]

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the United States' first national park,[26] being also the world's first national park. In some European countries, however, national protection and nature reserves already existed, such as Drachenfels (Germany, 1822) and a part of Forest of Fontainebleau (France, 1861).[27]

Yellowstone was part of a federally governed territory. With no state government that could assume stewardship of the land so the federal government took on direct responsibility for the park, the official first national park of the United States. The combined effort and interest of conservationists, politicians and the Northern Pacific Railroad ensured the passage of enabling legislation by the United States Congress to create Yellowstone National Park. Theodore Roosevelt and his group of conservationists, the Boone and Crockett Club, were already an active campaigners, and so influential, as good stump speakers were highly necessary in the pre-telecommunications era, was highly influential in convincing fellow Republicans and big business to back the bill. Yellowstone National Park soon played a pivotal role in the conservation of these national treasures, as it was suffering at the hands of poachers and others who stood at the ready to pillage what they could from the area. Theodore Roosevelt and his newly formed Boone and Crockett Club successfully took the lead in protecting Yellowstone National Park from this plight, resulting in laws designed to conserve the natural resources in Yellowstone and other parks under the Government's purview.

American Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner wrote:[28]

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

In his book Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks, Mark David Spence made the point that in order to create these uninhabited spaces, the United States first had to disposess the Indians who were living in them.[29]

Even with the creation of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and nearly 37 other national parks and monuments, another 44 years passed before an agency was created in the United States to administer these units in a comprehensive way – the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). The 64th United States Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act, which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law on 25 August 1916. Of the 417 sites managed by the National Park Service of the United States, only 59 carry the designation of National Park.

Further information: History of the National Park Service

Following the idea established in Yellowstone, there soon followed parks in other nations. In Australia, the Royal National Park was established just south of Sydney on 26 April 1879, becoming the world's second official national park[30] (actually the 3rd: Mackinac National Park in Michigan was created in 1875 as a national park but was later transferred to the state's authority in 1895, thus losing its official "national park" status).[31]Rocky Mountain National Park became Canada's first national park in 1885. Argentina became the third country in the Americas to create a national park system, with the creation of the Nahuel Huapi National Park in 1934, through the initiative of Francisco Moreno. New Zealand established Tongariro National Park in 1887. In Europe, the first national parks were a set of nine parks in Sweden in 1909, followed by the Swiss National Park in 1914. Europe has some 359 national parks as of 2010.[citation needed] Africa's first national park was established in 1925 when Albert I of Belgium designated an area of what is now Democratic Republic of Congo centred on the Virunga Mountains as the Albert National Park (since renamed Virunga National Park). In 1973, Mount Kilimanjaro was classified as a National Park and was opened to public access in 1977.[32] In 1926, the government of South Africa designated Kruger National Park as the nation's first national park, although it was an expansion of the earlier Sabie Game Reserve established in 1898 by President Paul Kruger of the old South African Republic, after whom the park was named. After World War II, national parks were founded all over the world. The Vanoise National Park in the Alps was the first French national park, created in 1963 after public mobilization against a touristic project.

The world's first national park service was established 19 May 1911, in Canada.[33] The Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act placed the dominion parks under the administration of the Dominion Park Branch (now Parks Canada). The branch was established to "protect sites of natural wonder" to provide a recreational experience, centered on the idea of the natural world providing rest and spiritual renewal from the urban setting.[34] Canada now has the largest protected area in the world with 377,000 km² of national park space.[35] In 1989, the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve (QNNP) was created to protect 3.381 million hectares on the north slope of Mount Everest in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. This national park is the first major global park to have no separate warden and protection staff—all of its management being done through existing local authorities, allowing a lower cost basis and a larger geographical coverage (in 1989 when created, it was the largest protected area in Asia). It includes four of the six highest mountains Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu. The QNNP is contiguous to four Nepali national parks, creating a transborder conservation area equal in size to Switzerland.[36]

Economic ramifications[edit]

Countries with a large nature-based tourism industry, such as Costa Rica, often experience a huge economic effect on park management as well as the economy of the country as a whole.[38]


Main article: Ecotourism

Tourism to national parks has increased considerably over time. In Costa Rica for example, a megadiverse country, tourism to parks has increased by 400% from 1985 to 1999.[38] The term national park is perceived as a brand name that is associated with nature-based tourism and it symbolizes a "high quality natural environment with a well-designed tourist infrastructure".[39]


Main article: Park ranger

The duties of a park ranger are to supervise, manage, and/or perform work in the conservation and use of Federal park resources. This involves functions such as park conservation; natural, historical, and cultural resource management; and the development and operation of interpretive and recreational programs for the benefit of the visiting public. Park rangers also have fire fighting responsibilities and execute search and rescue missions. Activities also include heritage interpretation to disseminate information to visitors of general, historical, or scientific information. Management of resources such as wildlife, lakeshores, seashores, forests, historic buildings, battlefields, archeological properties, and recreation areas are also part of the job of a park ranger.[40] Since the establishment of the National Park Service in the US in 1916, the role of the park ranger has shifted from merely being a custodian of natural resources to include several activities that are associated with law enforcement.[41] They control traffic and investigate violations, complaints, trespass/encroachment, and accidents.[40]

See also[edit]



  1. ^Europarc Federation (eds.) 2009, Living Parks, 100 Years of National Parks in Europe, Oekom Verlag, München
  2. ^The ActArchived 23 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^Report of the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park for the Year 1872Archived 3 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine., 43rd Congress, 3rd Session, ex. doc. 35, quoting Department of Interior letter of 10 May 1872, "The reservation so set apart is to be known as the "Yellowstone National Park"."
  4. ^Hardy, U. (9 April 2017). "The 10 Oldest National Parks In The World". The CultureTrip. Retrieved 21 December 2017. 
  5. ^Bonnett, A. (2016). The Geography of Nostalgia: Global and Local Perspectives on Modernity and Loss. Routledge. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-315-88297-0. 
  6. ^"National parks". Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Australian Government. 31 July 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  7. ^ abKim Allen Scott, 2011 "Robertson's Echo The Conservation Ethic in the Establishment of Yellowstone and Royal National Parks" Yellowstone Science 19:3
  8. ^"Audley Bottom". Archived from the original on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  9. ^Rodney Harrison, 2012 "Heritage: Critical approaches" Routledge
  10. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  11. ^"History of the National Parks". Association of National Park Authorities. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  12. ^ abcdGissibl, B., S. Höhler and P. Kupper, 2012, Civilizing Nature, National Parks in Global Historical Perspective, Berghahn, Oxford
  13. ^Jane Levere (29 August 2011). "The World's Most Beautiful National Parks". Forbes. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  14. ^Gulez, Sumer (1992). A method of evaluating areas for national park status.
  15. ^European Environment AgencyProtected areas in Europe – an overviewArchived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine. In: EEA Report No 5/2012 Kopenhagen: 2012 ISBN 978-92-9213-329-0ISSN 1725-9177pdf doi=10.2800/55955
  16. ^Wordsworth, William (1835). A guide through the district of the lakes in the north of England with a description of the scenery, &c. for the use of tourists and residents (5th ed.). Kendal, England: Hudson and Nicholson. p. 88. 
  17. ^Catlin, George (1841). Letters and Notes on the manners, customs, and condition of the North American Indians: written during eight years' travel amongst the wildest tribes of Indians in North America in 1832, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39. 1. Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London: Published by the author. pp. 261–262. Archived from the original on 1 May 2016. 
  18. ^ abShugart, Sharon (2004). "Hot Springs of Arkansas Through the Years: A Chronology of Events"(PDF). National Park Service. Archived(PDF) from the original on 14 April 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2008. 
  19. ^Peters, Richard, ed. (1866). "Twenty-Second Congress, Session 1, Chap. 70: An Act authorizing the governor of the territory of Arkansas to lease the salt springs, in said territory, and for other purposes (April 20, 1832)"(PDF). The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to 3 March 1845, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America from December 1863, to December 1865. 4. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown. p. 505. Archived from the original(PDF) on 15 November 2011. 
  20. ^"Act Establishing Yellowstone National Park (1872)". Our Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  21. ^Miller, Barbara Kiely (2008). John Muir. Gareth Stevens. p. 10. ISBN 0836883187. 
  22. ^John Muir. "Features of the Proposed Yosemite National Park"Archived 2 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine. The Century Magazine, Vol. XL. September 1890. No. 5
  23. ^John Muir. "The Treasures of the Yosemite"Archived 2 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine. The Century Magazine, Vol. XL. August 1890. No. 4
  24. ^Adam Wesley Dean. Natural Glory in the Midst of War: The Establishment of Yosemite State Park[permanent dead link] In: Abstract. Civil War History Volume 56, Number 4, December 2010 pp. 386-419 | 10.1353/cwh.2010.0008
  25. ^Sanger, George P., ed. (1866). "Thirty-Eighth Congress, Session 1, Chap. 184: An Act authorizing a Grant to the State of California of the "Yo-Semite Valley" and of the Land embracing the "Mariposa Big Tree Grove" (June 30, 1864)"(PDF). 38th United States Congress, Session 1, 1864. In: The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America from December 1863, to December 1865. 13. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 325. Archived from the original(PDF) on 16 November 2011. 
  26. ^Mangan, Elizabeth U. Yellowstone, the First National Park from Mapping the National ParksArchived 19 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
  27. ^Kimberly A. Jones, Simon R. Kelly, Sarah Kennel, Helga Kessler-Aurisch, In the forest of Fontainebleau: painters and photographers from Corot to Monet, National Gallery of Art, 2008, p.23
  28. ^"Famous Quotes Concerning the National Parks: Wallace Stegner, 1983". Discover History. National Park Service. 16 January 2003. Archived from the original on 8 May 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  29. ^Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999 : ReviewArchived 18 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine. by Colin Fisher, H-Environment, August 2000
  30. ^"1879: Australia's first national park created". National Museum of Australia. Archived from the original on 28 January 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  31. ^"Mackinac Island". Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Archived from the original on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  32. ^"Kilimanjaro: The National Park". Private Kilimanjaro: About Kilimanjaro. Private Expeditions, Ltd. 2011. Archived from the original on 17 October 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  33. ^Irish, Paul (13 May 2011). "Parks Canada celebrates a century of discovery". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  34. ^"Parks Canada History". Parks Canada. 2 February 2009. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  35. ^"Parks Canada". Parks Canada. Archived from the original on 23 March 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  36. ^Daniel C. Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, Jesse O. Taylor, Empowerment on an Unstable Planet New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, Chapter 9
  37. ^McMillan, A.J.S.; Horobin, J.F. (1995), Christmas Cacti : The genus Schlumbergera and its hybrids (p/b ed.), Sherbourne, Dorset: David Hunt, ISBN 978-0-9517234-6-3 
  38. ^ abEagles, Paul F.J. "Trends in Park Tourism: Economics, Finance and Management".Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. In: Journal of Sustainable Tourism Volume 10, Issue 2, 2002, p. 134. Doi:10.1080/09669580208667158
  39. ^Eagles, Paul F.J. "Trends in Park Tourism: Economics, Finance and Management".Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. In: Journal of Sustainable Tourism Volume 10, Issue 2, 2002, p. 133. Doi:10.1080/09669580208667158
  40. ^ abU.S. Office of Personnel Management. Handbook of occupational groups and families. Washington, D.C. January 2008. Page 19. OPM.govArchived 3 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 2 November 2014.
  41. ^R Meadows ; D L Soden In: National Park Ranger Attitudes and Perceptions Regarding Law Enforcement Issues.Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Abstract. Justice Professional Volume:3 Issue:1 (Spring 1988) Pages:70-93


External links[edit]

The United States in 1872. When Yellowstone was established, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho were territories, not states. For this reason, the federal government had to assume responsibility for the land, hence the creation of the national park.
Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, in California

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