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Mstislav Osipov
Mstislav Osipov

Progress in the Development of the National Parks: A Historical and Global Perspective

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

National parks are areas of land or water that are protected by governments for their natural, cultural, or historical significance. They are places where people can enjoy nature, learn about history, and appreciate beauty. They are also places where wildlife can thrive, ecosystems can function, and biodiversity can be preserved. National parks are a valuable resource for humanity and the planet, but they also face many challenges and opportunities in the modern world. In this article, we will explore the origin and purpose of national parks, their history and growth in the United States, their current status and future prospects worldwide, and some frequently asked questions about them.

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

The Origin and Purpose of National Parks

The Idea of Preserving Natural Wonders

The idea of creating national parks to protect natural wonders dates back to the 19th century, when some people began to realize that industrialization, urbanization, and exploitation were threatening the beauty and integrity of nature. One of the pioneers of this idea was George Catlin, an American painter who traveled across the American West in the 1830s and documented the landscapes and cultures of Native Americans. He was impressed by the majesty and diversity of nature, and he proposed that some areas should be preserved as "a nation's park" for future generations. He wrote:

"What a beautiful and thrilling specimen for America to preserve and hold up to the view of her refined citizens and the world, in future ages! A nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wildness and freshness of their nature's beauty!"

Catlin's vision was not realized in his lifetime, but it inspired others to advocate for similar ideas. One of them was John Muir, a Scottish-born naturalist who explored and wrote about the wilderness of California, especially Yosemite Valley. He was a founder of the Sierra Club, one of the first environmental organizations in the United States. He campaigned for the protection of Yosemite as a national park, and he also influenced President Theodore Roosevelt to create more national parks and monuments. He believed that nature had a spiritual value that transcended human interests. He wrote:

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."

The Benefits of National Parks for People and Wildlife

National parks have many benefits for people and wildlife. Some of them are:

  • National parks provide recreational opportunities for people to enjoy nature, such as hiking, camping, fishing, boating, wildlife watching, photography, etc.

  • National parks provide educational opportunities for people to learn about nature, history, culture, science, etc., through interpretive programs, visitor centers, museums, etc.

  • National parks provide economic benefits for local communities and countries, such as tourism, employment, income, etc.

  • National parks provide ecological benefits for the environment, such as conserving biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem services, mitigating climate change, etc.

  • National parks provide social benefits for society, such as fostering national identity, cultural diversity, civic engagement, etc.

The History and Growth of National Parks in the United States

The First National Park: Yellowstone

The first national park in the world was Yellowstone, which was established by the U.S. Congress in 1872. Yellowstone is located in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and it covers an area of over 2.2 million acres. It is famous for its geothermal features, such as geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles, as well as its wildlife, such as bison, bears, wolves, elk, etc. Yellowstone was created to preserve "the natural curiosities and wonders" of the region for "the benefit and enjoyment of the people". It was also a response to the threats of commercial exploitation and vandalism that were endangering the area. The creation of Yellowstone set a precedent for other national parks to follow.

The Expansion of the National Park System

After Yellowstone, more national parks were created in the United States, such as Yosemite (1890), Sequoia (1890), Mount Rainier (1899), Crater Lake (1902), Glacier (1910), Rocky Mountain (1915), Grand Canyon (1919), Zion (1919), Acadia (1919), etc. By 1916, there were 14 national parks and 21 national monuments in the country. However, there was no unified administration or policy for managing them. Therefore, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act of 1916, which created the National Park Service (NPS) as a federal agency within the Department of the Interior. The NPS was given the responsibility to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the 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". The NPS also adopted a dual mandate of preservation and recreation for national parks.

The National Park System continued to expand throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, adding more types of units besides national parks and monuments, such as national preserves, national historic sites, national battlefields, national memorials, national recreation areas, national seashores, national lakeshores, national rivers, national trails, etc. Today, there are 63 national parks and 423 total units in the National Park System, covering over 84 million acres in all 50 states and several territories.

The Challenges and Controversies of National Park Management

Managing national parks is not an easy task. It involves balancing multiple and sometimes conflicting interests and values among various stakeholders. Some of the challenges and controversies that have faced national park management over the years are:

  • Funding: National parks require adequate funding to maintain their infrastructure, facilities, staff, programs, etc., but they often face budget cuts or shortfalls that affect their operations and quality.

  • Visitation: National parks attract millions of visitors every year who enjoy their beauty and resources, but they also cause impacts such as congestion, pollution, noise, vandalism, etc., that degrade their natural and cultural values.

  • Development: National parks are surrounded by lands that are owned or managed by other entities, such as private owners, state governments, local governments, tribes, etc., who may have different goals or plans for development that affect the integrity or character of national parks.

  • Conservation: National parks are meant to conserve their natural and cultural resources for posterity, but they also face threats such as climate change, invasive species, wildfires, poaching, etc., that endanger their biodiversity and ecosystem health.

  • Politics: National parks are subject to political influences or pressures from various levels of government or interest groups who may have different agendas or opinions on how national parks should be managed or used.

The Current Status and Future Prospects of National Parks Worldwide

The Diversity and Distribution of National Parks Around the Globe

National parks are not unique to the United States. They are found in almost every country in the world, reflecting the diversity and distribution of nature and culture across the globe. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are over 4 000 national parks worldwide, The Threats and Opportunities for National Parks in the 21st Century

National parks face many threats and opportunities in the 21st century. Some of them are:

  • Globalization: National parks are affected by global trends and forces, such as trade, migration, communication, etc., that create opportunities for cooperation and exchange, but also challenges for sovereignty and identity.

  • Urbanization: National parks are influenced by urban growth and development, which create opportunities for accessibility and awareness, but also challenges for congestion and pollution.

  • Democratization: National parks are influenced by democratic movements and processes, which create opportunities for participation and empowerment, but also challenges for representation and accountability.

  • Diversification: National parks are influenced by social and cultural diversity, which create opportunities for inclusion and respect, but also challenges for equity and conflict.

  • Innovation: National parks are influenced by technological and scientific innovation, which create opportunities for improvement and adaptation, but also challenges for regulation and ethics.

The Role of Technology and Innovation in National Park Conservation

Technology and innovation play a vital role in national park conservation. They can help to monitor, protect, restore, and enhance national park resources and values. Some examples of technology and innovation that are used or being developed for national park conservation are:

  • Remote sensing: Remote sensing is the use of satellites, drones, cameras, sensors, etc., to collect data or images of national park areas or features from a distance. It can help to detect changes, assess conditions, identify threats, etc., in a timely and accurate manner.

  • Geographic information systems (GIS): GIS is the use of computer software and hardware to store, analyze, manipulate, and display spatial data or information. It can help to map, model, visualize, simulate, etc., national park landscapes or phenomena in a comprehensive and interactive way.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI is the use of machines or systems that can perform tasks or functions that normally require human intelligence or cognition. It can help to process, interpret, learn, predict, etc., national park data or information in a fast and efficient way.

  • Biotechnology: Biotechnology is the use of living organisms or their parts to produce or modify products or processes. It can help to conserve, restore, enhance, etc., national park biodiversity or ecosystem health in a sustainable and innovative way.

  • Citizen science: Citizen science is the involvement of non-professional volunteers or enthusiasts in scientific research or activities. It can help to collect, share, verify, etc., national park data or information in a collaborative and participatory way.


National parks are a remarkable achievement of humanity and nature. They are places where we can appreciate the beauty and diversity of nature, learn about the history and culture of humanity, and enjoy the benefits and values of both. They are also places where we can face the challenges and opportunities of the modern world, and find solutions and innovations for them. National parks are a legacy that we have inherited from the past, a responsibility that we have for the present, and a gift that we have for the future. They deserve our respect, care, and support.


Q1: What is a national park?

A1: A national park is an area of land or water that is protected by a government for its natural, cultural, or historical significance.

Q2: How many national parks are there in the world?

A2: There are over 4 000 national parks worldwide, covering about 6% of the Earth's land surface.

Q3: What are some of the most famous national parks in the world?

A3: Some of the most famous national parks in the world are Yellowstone (USA), Banff (Canada), Galapagos (Ecuador), Serengeti (Tanzania), Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Fiordland (New Zealand), Jiuzhaigou (China), Torres del Paine (Chile), Kruger (South Africa), and Komodo (Indonesia).

Q4: How can I visit a national park?

A4: You can visit a national park by planning ahead, following the rules and regulations, respecting the nature and culture, and enjoying the experience. You can also visit a national park virtually, by using online resources, such as websites, apps, videos, etc.

Q5: How can I support national park conservation?

A5: You can support national park conservation by donating money or time, joining or volunteering for organizations, advocating or campaigning for causes, educating or informing yourself and others, and practicing or promoting sustainable behaviors. 71b2f0854b


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