Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Idea Whose Time Had Come

Magnet # 19:  Yellowstone Moose Close-Up

Material:  Metal

Purchased by:  Mom & Dad

Back in 1916, on this very day, the National Park Service was founded, when president Woodrow Wilson signed the bill creating this organization.  However, Yellowstone wasn't officially made the first National Park until over half a year later. 

The wheels had been in motion for quite some time to create a federal agency to oversee the nation's parks.  As early as 1832, an artist named George Caitlin first proposed the idea.  Over time, more proponents arose, arguing the need for such an agency.  President Theodore Roosevelt was among them.

Part of the reason why the Service was so difficult to establish was that in flew in the face of a long-standing federal policy to have as few federal lands as possible.  The Feds wanted to only deal with Washington D.C. and a few military bases.  In their opinion, the states were more than welcome to all of the frustration and organization that accompanied land ownership.

But Yellowstone proved to be the catalyst that forced this organization into being.  First of all, it was not simply located in one state.  The majority was in Wyoming, but it did extend into Montana and Idaho.  And the states - which were just territories until 1889 and 1890 - were either incapable of managing the area or butting heads over just how to do so.  Then there were the visitors.  Tourists caused forest fires through their carelessness, hunted the wildlife, and removed natural parts of the land to take as souvenirs.  A few were even kidnapped by the Nez Perces as they evaded capture in 1877.  Clearly, something had to been done.  And with the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, it was.

Nowadays, the National Park System consists of almost 400 natural, cultural and recreational parks that span the country.  It's hard to imagine what would have happened without them.  Would areas like Yellowstone have been stripped of all natural resources for the profit of a few individuals?  Would certain species have gone extinct without these environs protecting them?  Would strip malls, factories, and urban blight occupy these areas now?  Thanks to the National Park System, we'll never know.


  1. Thanks for the info on Yellowstone - as usual you provide timely and interesting knowledge about each entry.

  2. i love the NPS! have you read the post about TR's birthplace on joymagnetism.com? she hearts the NPS more than anyone i know.

  3. Thank you both for the comments - I will have to recheck that on joymagnetism.com.