The State Park Movement in America: A Crictical Review

By Ney C. Landrum | Go to book overview

5
Coalescence
The First National Conference on Parks

The Rise of the National Parks

If the state parks by about 1920 seemed to be making real progress, they still were being greatly overshadowed by the increasing popularity of the national parks. A number of new national park proposals had been put forth soon after the establishment of Yellowstone in 1872, but Congress had not yet accepted the notion that the country really needed a whole bunch of parks, and consequently it had been slow to act. By 1900, for instance, only five such parks had been created, and three of those were in the “big trees” area of central California. The idea was rapidly catching on, however, and the situation was about to change.

In September 1901, Theodore Roosevelt suddenly assumed the presidency upon the assassination of William McKinley and brought with him a genuine interest in just about everything wild and natural. While parks per se may not yet have been among his highest priorities, his deep personal concern for natural resources conservation—especially forests and wildlife—immediately created a receptive attitude in the federal government for establishing more parks. He himself fully recognized the value of national parks for preservation—rather than less-restrictive conservation—purposes. Referring to his tenure as president, he later wrote: “more was accomplished for the protection of wild life in the United States [between 1901 and 1909] than during all the previous years, excepting only the creation of the Yellowstone National Park.”1

National forests and wildlife refuges constitute the preponderance of Roosevelt’s impressive conservation legacy, but he also took particular pride in the establish-

1. Harbaugh, Writings of Theodore Roosevelt, 156; emphasis mine.

-74-

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