Monday, October 24, 2016

Happy Birthday National Park Service!

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the U. S. National Park Service. It has been a while since I read the enabling legislation which President Woodrow Wilson signed on August 25, 1916. It is a surprisingly short piece of legislation and worth reading.

The legislation sponsors were Representative William Kent (I - Progressive Party) and Senator Reed Smoot (R) of Utah. It begins,

"The National Park Service Organic Act (16. U. S. C. 123, and 4), as set forth herein, consists of the Act of Aug. 25. 1916 (39 Stat. 535) and amendments thereto."

The first director of the National Park Service was Stephen Mather (May 16 1917 to July 8 1929). Jon Jarvis is the current director and was appointed on October 2, 2009. For a list of all eighteen directors with short biographies see here.

The term "Organic Act" is a defined legal term. According to Wikipedia "an Organic Act, in United States law, is an Act of the United States Congress that establishes a territory of the United States or an agency to manage certain federal lands."

For more information about organic acts see the Wikipedia entry.  This entry comes with an alert because it does not include any source references.

Historian Robin Winks wrote a special centennial essay for the George Wright Society on the evolution and meaning of the Organic Act.  There is an apparent contradiction in the Act ("to conserve..." and "to provide for the enjoyment...."). Winks provides the view of a historian not that of a legal scholar.

The George Wright Society is a nonprofit association founded in 1980.  It is dedicated "to the protection, preservation, and management of cultural and natural parks and resources through research and education."

The Society is named in honor of George Melendez Wright, the first chief of the wildlife division of the United States National Park Service.

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