From Yellowstone to Freedom Riders National Monument: What Drives the Addition of New National Parks?

Authors: Lary Dilsaver*, University Of South Alabama
Topics: Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: national park system, preservation, land use
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Palladian, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The American national park system includes 417 units spread throughout the 50 states and most of the country’s territories. For the last 146 years, the expansion of that system has resulted from a variety of planned surveys, programmatic initiatives, political machinations, and serendipitous public support. Over the last century, the basic criteria for inclusion have consisted of significance to the national citizenry, feasibility of cost and local support, and suitability to add variety and topical coverage. Recently a new criterion that asks, “Can another entity preserve the site?” has been added. More than 2,500 places have been investigated and most have been found wanting. Proactive plans and studies instigated by the National Park Service and other federal agencies have sought fulfillment of physiographic regions, historical themes, and recreation opportunities such as seashores and reservoirs. A confusing mass of suggestions for new parks have flowed to the Service from individual legislators, editors, and conservationists. Not all have been welcome. At times, congress has insisted on more new park proposals and a broader system and at other times disallowed the agency from even initiating a study without its approval. This paper outlines some of the major periods of park additions and the motives behind them.

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