National Parks and Domestic Affairs

 

Theodore W. Sudia

 

        o agency of the Federal government pleases the people more than           the National Park Service. A public opinion poll taken by the             Gallup Organization for the National Park Foundation shows that more than 95% of the American public approved of the National Park Service. The National Park Service is one of the few Federal agencies for which citizens willingly pay taxes. Between 200 and 300 million visits are made to units of the National Park System each year.

     The reason for this universal acclaim can be found in the National Park System itself and the remarkable laws that brought it into existence. Perhaps no other acts of our forebearers, other than those of the Founding Fathers, have had more influence on the way Americans view themselves, their lives, their nation and their nation's history. For contained within the National Park System are natural and cultural resources representing the diversity of this nation, the record of its achievements and the monuments to its greatness. At a time when manifest destiny and the conquest of the wilderness were the paramount concerns of the country, a group of inspired patriots had a concept —"National Park."

     The laws that created the National Park System do three things: (1) they prescribe an individual recipe for preserving, protecting, managing, and administrating the natural and cultural resources of each unit of the System; (2) they decree that these resources should be managed and administered to the common benefit of the people of the United States, and; (3) they require that these resources should be maintained unimpaired for future generations. No person or corporation can establish a contract or trust in perpetuity. But our Federal Republic has established, for the American people, the equivalent of a perpetual trust: a perpetual statutory obligation called the National Park System.

     Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, four years before the battle of the Little Big Horn. The Yellowstone Act declared that the resources of the Park were to be maintained in their "natural condition." An amendment to the Yellowstone Act described the Park as a place "where no animal nor bird shall be harmed." The phrase "maintain in their natural condition" appears in much of the early National Park legislation. Later legislation spoke of the preservation of "scenic, scientific, and historic values," and more recently the legislation of Gateway National Recreation Area, the most urban park in

 

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the System, called for the preservation of outstanding "natural and recreational" resources.

     In 1970, Congress passed the National Park System Act. This Act is noteworthy because it recognized the geographically scattered entities as a "System." It further declared that the highest level of environmental management was to prevail throughout the System. The resources of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, located in the most heavily industrialized region of the nation, are to be managed to the same high standards as those in Yellowstone or Glacier national parks. Restricting the concept "National Park" to the large natural area parks gives the notion that a National Park is just prime real estate. They are much more than that—they are natural and cultural resources, together with a management system, that makes them National Parks.

     Shenandoah National Park was created out of clear-cut Appalachian mountaintop farms. The land was put into the National Park System as part of an industrial redevelopment program. Though still far from old-growth timber, the natural mountain ecosystem has since regenerated. Animal populations have reestablished themselves, and the once clear-cut, severely eroding submarginal farmland has become a national treasure. Shenandoah National Park has species of animals found no other place in the world, and the park is important because of its cultural history and because it serves as an example of restoration conservation.

     Beginning with the Yellowstone Act, the law envisions national parks and people interacting. The original Act has provisions for setting aside land for the accommodation of visitors. The notion of these services being provided by "concessioners" is also spelled out in this very first Act. The Yellowstone Act clearly has the whole concept of the National Park System in embryo. The clear mandate to maintain the resources in their "natural condition" and at the same time to provide access for the public to come to see and enjoy this "pleasuring ground" are offered as the recipe for a National Park. The Yellowstone National Park Act demands the synergistic coexistence of people and resources in the park. To separate the concept of protecting resources from accommodating people leads only to internal contradictions of park planning that lead to misuse and ultimate derogation of the resource the laws were passed to preserve. At the birth of Yellowstone, this concept was new to the world.

     Providing custodial services and assuring public safety are the first of the six major responsibilities of the National Park Service. When a park enters the System, it requires the immediate attention of the proprietor to provide the custodial services necessary to protect the assets. Fire and property protection, and protection against theft and vandalism, must be provided; if the public is to be permitted to enter the premises, public safety must also be assured. Assets, including buildings  and  their  contents  and  significant  artifacts,  must be inven-

 

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toried, preserved and protected. These services are not unique to the System, and they would not differ significantly from those in the U.S. Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or any other prudent land managing agency. The distinction between the custodial duties and the statuatory obligations of the National Park Service must never be obscured; they are separate functions and they should be budgeted and administered separately.

     The 1978 amendment to the Redwood National Park Act of 1968 reveals the second of the Service's six great functions. This amendment declares that the managers of the National Park Service have a statutory obligation to maintain the park's resources unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. In the words of the amendment, "Congress further reaffirms, declares, and directs, that the promotion and regulation of the various areas of the National Park System, as defined by the first section of the Act of August 25, 1916, to the common benefit of all the people of the United States. The authorization of activities shall be construed and the protection, management, and administration of these areas shall be conducted in the light of the high public value and integrity of the National Park System and shall not be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which these various areas have been established, except as may have been or shall be directly and specifically provided by Congress." The Act of August 25, 1916, is the Organic Act of the National Park Service and it mandates that the resources of the parks must be maintained "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

     Recognizing and averting, mitigating, or nullifying non-compatible uses (maintaining the resources unimpaired) is the prime objective of National Park System management. With complex long-term processes, this is not always an easy task and at no time can it be accomplished without the wisdom that comes from research on ecosystems.

     A closer examination of the assets of the National Park System reveals that they consist not only of real estate, acreage, and developments and buildings, but collections of natural history specimens including type specimens, and anthropological and archeological artifacts; e.g., art, books, maps, photographs, drawings, manuscripts, and everything associated with museum collections and libraries. They also include the accumulated knowledge that relates to these assets, in the form of papers, publications and studies and most importantly, documentation and a management system. The documentation consists of photographs, drawings, sketches, descriptions of the land itself, the developments, the buildings, and the artifacts. The full range of information aquisition, analysis and enlightened management must be employed in this endeavor. The management system consists of site specific action plans which take into account the resources basic inventory, enabling legislation and legislative history, other legislation and regulation and other specific requirements of the site.

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     To implement properly the body of the statutory obligation, the National Park Service's policy, regulations and directives must derive directly from the laws. They must be buttressed with scientific knowledge, which must then be published in a form understandable by the average, well-informed citizen. Just as scholarship associated with the resources of the National Park System—for the parks also require libraries, laboratories, researchers and scholars. Each park, like "everyman's" university, must serve as a center of knowledge and enlightenment. Each park in the System must be a "hotbed" of scholarship, learning, teaching, seeking, searching, inquiring, delving, discovering and understanding and not just by the Park Service staff but by the visiting public as well. Each park must be an exemplar of enlightened environmental and cultural management to be emulated by state and local heritage preservation programs and international programs as well.

     Is Yellowstone National Park a theme park, like Six Flags over Georgia? Is Independence Hall a theme park where people can be entertained? The answers are obviously no. Does this imply, however, that people should not have fun at Yellowstone or Independence Hall? Nonsense! The Yellowstone Act calls Yellowstone National Park a "pleasuring ground." People can do a myriad of things with pleasure. If the national parks are not theme parks and if they are pleasuring grounds, just what does that mean? Recourse to the enabling acts of the parks give all the guidance needed. Each act spells out why the park was created and what the management of the National Park Service is expected to do. The law that created Cape Hatteras National Seashore said unequivocally that the park was to be managed as "a primitive wilderness taking into account its unique physiographic condition." Politically, it could be construed that Cape Hatteras was established to provide Federal protection to the seashore. Reading the newspapers of the time, it might be concluded that promises were made to the landowners that the seashore would be maintained at Federal expense in exchange for their cooperation in establishing the park. But the law says simply to manage as a "primitive wilderness" and provide compatible recreational opportunities.

     The Director of the National Park Service, with the support of the Undersecretary of the Interior, adhered to the law, and ushered in a new era for the seashores of the United States. Not only did the researchers at Cape Hatteras build a scientific base of knowledge as a foundation for the management of the park, their actions also resulted in the crowning achievement of the Coastal Barriers Act of 1982. While no panacea for all seashore ills, this act will begin to provide some form of protection for all the barrier islands. Scientists of the National Park Service also founded the Coastal Society, a national organization of professional scientists and engineers dedicated to understanding the coastal processes to insure their proper management.

 

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     Education is the third great responsibility of the National Park Service. If the National Park Service is to impart to its clientele the wisdom it accumulates as it fulfills its statutory obligations, it must take on the characteristics of an educational institution. It must become the university of the common people. Interpretation is important, but by itself it is not enough. The educational activities of the Park Service must encompass the full range of teaching methods available to modern scholarship, from computer-assisted tutorials to lectures by the most eminent scholars of our day. The Park Service must use television, films, video cassettes, and publications, in all ranges from children's books to scholarly treatises. The Service must be able to accommodate school children, science and history students, graduate students, and eminent researchers and scholars, but above all it must be able to accommodate people. (It is almost compulsive to say at this point "accommodate the visitor" instead of the people. But are these people—the public—visitors? Are students in schools at any level visitors? Are people in museums visitors? Are people at concerts visitors? Visitor implies an ephemeral, superficial interaction between the person—the visitor, and the visited—the park. We need another term—maybe park-goers or the like—to convey the sense of a more intimate relationship between the person and the resource or the person and the knowledge of history or nature. The people own these parks; they can hardly be visitors in something they own.) National Park Service statistics indicate that as many as 85% of all people who come to parks come as families—parents and children. And increasing numbers of one-parent families come to the parks. This is absolutely unique in American life. The Park Service has an unprecedented opportunity to interact with the basic ecological unit of American society—the American family—as no other agency in our modern society can.

     If this educational program cannot be accomplished with appropriated funds, then the National Park Service, as it is legally empowered to do, must establish a corporation or a foundation to do it with donated money. Such an organization should be a membership organization that allows the informed citizen to contribute to and participate in this high public value function. A publication should result from this activity that combines the best of the National Geographic, the Smithsonian Magazine and Science 85. The National Park Service must reach and educate its public in the schools, and on television in their homes. The public can and should certainly be educated in the parks, but it will be of considerable benefit to the safeguarding of parks if as much education as possible reaches the public before the public reaches the parks. The wisdom of the National Park Service should be available in any public library or bookstore, and on the magazine shelves of every drug store and supermarket. An informed citizenry is the greatest bulwark of protection the National Park System can have.

 

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     From the enabling legislation it is certain that the parks are special places created because of their unique or outstanding resources. They are placed in the National Park System for the use and enjoyment of the American people. (Enjoy has two meanings both of which are central to the National Park idea: (1) to take pleasure or satisfaction in; (2) to have for one's use, benefit, or lot.) When we ponder the meaning of "enjoyment of future generations," it is necessary to keep in mind just exactly what enjoy means. And again, what is the object of the enjoyment, to enjoy oneself for future generations or to enjoy the resources for future generations? It is abundantly clear from the enabling legislation that the resources are to be enjoyed. The resources are to give satisfaction or pleasure. The people are to have the use, benefit or lot of these places in perpetuity. But for what purpose or purposes? The resources of the parks are to provide the source of the enjoyment and provide the recreational opportunities set out in the enabling legislation. The public interacting with the resource will get enjoyment and pleasure, a real sense of satisfaction, to restore and refresh, strengthen and renew spirit.

     The fourth great responsibility of the National Park Service is to provide recreational opportunities commensurate with the requirements to protect and preserve the resources of the parks. In doing so it must fulfill the body of the statutory obligations and impart the knowledge and wisdom of the resources. Recreational activities should be conceived as uses of the resource, and the prime injunction of the System is to provide compatible use of the resources in order to protect them. This does not dimish the opportunity for recreation, but it does prescribe non-destructive, compatible forms of recreation and a logical and reasoned sensitivity to the potential for resource deterioration under various kinds of stress. Human use carrying capacity for each and every park has to be rigorously applied. Under no circumstances must the recreation function be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which the areas have been established. Congress and Congress alone has the right to assign a purpose to a park different from its enabling legislation. The parks have superb recreational values. Recreate and recreation mean exactly what they say. To recreate is to create again, to give new life or freshness to. Recreation means restoration to health, to create anew, restore, refresh, refreshment of strength and spirits after work. It is obvious that the object of the recreation is the human body and spirit, but the question is how is this to be accomplished in a National Park? This is the challenge bestowed on the National Park Service. The law merely requires that the recreation be consonant with the statutory obligations of the parks.

     The fifth great task of the National Park Service is to accomplish the purposes set forth in the Outdoor Recreation Act of 1962 and related statutory obligations. The National Park Service, having assimilated the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, is now the administrator

 

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of the Outdoor Recreation Act of 1962, and all other legislative responsibilities of that agency whose programs reach into the fifty states and territories. The National Park Service has yet to digest these new statutory obligations and to fit them properly into its own existing statutory obligations. When it does, the National Park Service and the National Park System will be complete.

     The sixth major responsibility of the National Park Service is to provide for the orderly growth of the National Park System. Past attempts to provide such a system centered on the concept of "national significance." National significance may be defined by example, for instance Yellowstone National Park has national significance, as does Independence Hall. Or national significance may be defined as regional representativeness of a physiographic province as it has been used in the National Park Plan Part II or the national significance for natural landmarks. There is a flavor of uniqueness in the concept of national significance. Congress passed legislation (Section 8 of PL 94-458 October 7, 1976), requesting nominations from the Secretary of the Interior for as many as 12 parks a year. This resulted in a great flurry of new parks (as many as 30 in one year were established), severely straining the resources of the Service and the credibility of the legislative system. The question of national significance was sorely tested. Is the national significance of Chattahoochee or Cuyahoga national recreation areas in the same class as Yellowstone, or Glacier or Yosemite? No, they are not. But if they are not, are they nationally significant? What about Mt. Vernon and Monticello, which most would perceive as nationally significant but which are not even in the System?

     The simple question is: "What do Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon have in common with Cuyahoga, Gateway, Golden Gate or Chattahoochee?" The facetious answer is that they are all in the National Park System. The cogent answer is they all serve a Federal purpose! What about Mt. Vernon and Monticello? They are being held by Public Corporations organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code to the common benefit of all the people of the United States, which serves the same Federal purpose.

     The President issuing a proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906 determines "Federal purpose." The Congress in the ordinary exercise of it legislative powers makes a preliminary determination of "Federal purpose." If the President agrees and signs the legislation the "Federal purpose" is determined with finality. The question remains how to select new units of the System? The simple answer is: whatever selections the President and the Congress agree upon serves the Federal purpose. The Federal purpose for the parks is served if they have been established "to the common benefit of all the people of the United States." National significance attempted to impose a legislative standard upon the Congress. The Congress ignored it. The Federal purpose concept will allow the  National  Park  Service  to reassess its role as the

 

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lead park and recreation agency for the Federal government and should lead to a rational plan that encompasses not only additions to the National Park System, including Natural and Cultural Landmarks, but for the proper establishment of the National Park presence in our national life.

     The times call for a new strategy, using the Federal purpose criterion, to plan for an orderly, rational procedure for extending the benefits of the National Park System to the common benefit of all the American people. There is only one Grand Canyon, and the people of New York, no matter how much they want it, can't have it. But what can they have? They can have the National Park presence, in the form of Fire Island National Seashore, Gateway National Recreation Area, Grant's Tomb, the Statue of Liberty, Federal Hall, Ellis Island, Hyde Park, et al, and the benefits of the Outdoor Recreation Act of 1962, and other federally sponsored recreation programs. Why should only the Washington, D.C. area have a Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts? Probably because no one has come up with a plan to provide such parks in other parts of the nation, where they will serve the Federal purpose. The present method for adding units to the System is haphazard, national significance nothwithstanding, and an orderly plan for the growth of the National Park System is called for. This plan to be effective must not only account for the mainline units of the National Park System but must accomodate the Natural and Historical Landmarks, the wild and scenic rivers, and any other natural or cultural heritage sites of Federal interest. It is also time to reexamine the concept of a National Park "land bank" where industrially devastated landscapes are rehabilitated into units of the National Park System. Shenandoah National Park and Cunningham Falls State Park, Maryland, are outstanding success stories for this concept.

     The National Park System is an ecosystem in its own right. It is a healthy viable ecosystem that is growing and expanding its influence to more and more places in the United States. There is much talk about "rounding out" the system, kind of like collecting all the Lincoln head pennies, but the political system that brings the parks into being is not responding in that fashion. (They keep making more Lincoln head pennies.) It seems as long as there are people and a President or a Congress to do their bidding, there will be more parks and consequently more growth in the System.

     Will the entire nation be engulfed in parks one day? Is the nation as a park a rational concept? The parks can stand as "Islands of Hope" in such a world, but it would be far better if the concept of "park" could be applied to all land rather than if the concept of "park" meant simply the last stronghold of nature. The parks can and should be living examples for the management of all land, urban wilds, farm woodlands, and city parks—in short, all land that is not in immediate need for consumptive use. And  what  is  learned  in  parks  should  be applied to all land. The

 

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Presidents' homes will be preserved, as will the yet-to-become-famous houses and buildings, and new terrestrial and marine parks that serve a Federal purpose will be added to the System.

     We are young as a nation and our cultural heritage is still new to us. We must reexamine the concept of the "National Park System" and bring it into harmony with the new condition of the National Park Service, now that it incorporates all of the functions of the former Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service. Determining the relevance of "Federal purpose" to the National Park System should shed new light on the process of synergistically and symbiotically accommodating the National Park presence to the domestic affairs of the Nation.

     The Federal Republic was founded with six purposes in mind: (1) to form a more perfect union, (2) to establish Justice, (3) to insure domestic Tranquility, (4) to provide for the common defence, (5) to promote the general Welfare, and (6) to secure the Blessings of Liberty. Congress and the President fulfilled, in part, their obligations to insure domestic Tranquility when they created the National Park System. The enabling acts, the Organic Act, the Antiquities Act, the National Park System Act are all grants of Federal power to the National Park Service to perform. The National Park Service fulfills its role to insure domestic Tranquility when it provides the proper proprietary custodianship and resources management for units in its care, and educational and recreational opportunities for park-goers.

 

Theodore W. Sudia, Chief Scientist of the National Park Service,      Washington, DC.