On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed H.R. 15522, or the National Parks Service Organic Act, into law. The bill established the National Parks Service (NPS), which would oversee national parks as well as other important historic sites. In the century since, the national parks system has grown exponentially. In 2022, the National Park Service received 312 million visits.
Though the NPS was created in 1916, national parks existed for many years before that. In 1872, Congress passed a dedication law that created Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the U.S. In the years that followed, they added many more national parks and monuments, including Zion National Park, Glacier National Park, and the Statue of Liberty National Monument. All these parks and monuments were under the authority of the Department of the Interior, but they were each being run by a different entity. As a result, there was little money or authority to truly preserve and protect these sites.
In 1916, the NPS Organic Act was passed that created the National Park Service to “promote and regulate the use of Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations . . . to conserve the scenery and 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.” In the first two decades of the NPS, all national parks, monuments, and other properties were brought together under one management. The NPS hired rangers and marketed the parks to the American people. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the NPS, there are now more than 400 sites preserved for the enjoyment of anyone who wants to appreciate the variation and natural beauty of the United States or dig into her history.
Learn more here: