A Century of Impact
As the first decade of the new millennium unfolded, an important milestone loomed: The National Park Service would celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016. But was it prepared for its next century?
NPCA’s founders were instrumental in establishing and shaping the agency that manages America’s national parks. An early trustee, the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., even contributed pivotal language to the Organic Act of 1916, the law that created the Park Service. In it, he articulated the fundamental purpose of the parks and monuments:
…to conserve the scenery and the 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.
It’s fair to say that the Park Service has wrestled with the dual nature of this mandate — facilitating the public’s use of the places they are also charged with conserving — ever since. Record visitation and development threats only added to the challenge as the agency entered its tenth decade.
To help chart the way forward, NPCA convened a remarkable gathering of individuals to develop a 21st-century vision for the National Park Service and the places it holds in trust for the American people. In 2008, the National Parks Second Century Commission brought together a diverse group of distinguished private citizens — including scientists, historians, conservationists, educators, businesspeople, and leaders with long experience in state and national government — who met with and listened to both park staff and everyday people. Their recommendations centered on the opportunity to create a more adaptive and innovative Park Service, the need for sustainable funding, and the power of education, diversity, stewardship and service to help bring the parks ideal into the new century.
These insights have informed so much of the work that has followed and speak to the vital role NPCA has played from day one: to support both America’s national parks and the people who manage and maintain them.
That's Why We've...
Helped to secure a record $122-million funding increase for the National Park Service, which has since been insufficiently funded to meet the demands of soaring visitation and a mounting maintenance backlog.
Published a comprehensive resource assessment of America’s national parks and recommended Park Service strategies for improving them
Led the successful fight to reform concession policies in the national parks in the 1990s.
Published the report “A Legacy Threatened” to demonstrate the need for storm recovery funding for national parks
Fought for the passage of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, which brought sweeping expansions and improvements to the National Park System
Partnered with Subaru on the Zero-Landfill Initiative to pilot the removal of waste from the national parks
Created the National Park Trust, now an independent organization, to facilitate the transfer of land from private inholdings in national parks.
Published “Investing in Park Futures: A Blueprint for Tomorrow,” a 10-volume series that provided recommendations on park boundaries, planning, personnel, management, research, visitor management, interpretation, public involvement, land acquisition and new parks.