National Park Service

By | Oct 17, 2010

It was on August 25, 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill, National Park Service Organic Act, that created the National Park Service. The agency mission as defined in the bill was “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife 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.”

Prior to this time each each national park was managed independently. Many felt that there was a need for an independent agency to oversee the national parks of the United States. The movement was spearheaded by business magnate and conservationist Stephen Mather.

The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency under the cabinet level Department of Interior. There has been 18 National Park Directors. The first Director was Stephen Mather (1916-1929) and the current Director is Jon Jarvis beginning on October 2, 2009.

The National Park System is the term that describes the collection of all units managed by the National Park Service. A unit is a physical property owned or administered by the National Park Service. There are 392 units although the term can be confusing since some places may be counted as multiple units and separate places may be considered as one. 58 of these units are classified as National Parks.

Delaware is the only State not to have a ‘unit’ of the National Park System.

The system encompasses approximately 84.4 million acres. More than 4.3 million acres, while controlled by the NPS, remains in private ownership. There are 21,000 buildings, 17,000 miles of Trails and 10,000 miles of roads under direction of the NPS.


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