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Public Use of the
National Park System





Chapter 1

current topic Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10



Public Use of the National Park System (1872-2000)
Chapter 2
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Entering a New Period in the 1960's

a. Population Growth.

b. Travel.

c. Outdoor Recreation.

d. Wilderness Preservation.

e. The New Conservation.


The 1960's marked a turning point in conservation in the United States. New emphasis was given by new leadership to the significance of at least five forces that profoundly affect public use of the National Park System--population growth, travel, outdoor recreation, wilderness preservation and the new conservation. In this period the nation's needs for outdoor recreation, fully documented by the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission in 1962, and for wilderness, fully documented in hearings that led to the Wilderness Act of 1964, became more urgent than ever, against a background of mounting population, diminishing resources, increasing leisure time and income, growing mobility, and pyramiding travel.

In the midst of MISSION 66, at least five forces began to make themselves more strongly felt on the national conservation scene than ever before. New emphasis was placed by new leadership on the significance of these forces and their convergence together for the future of conservation in the United States. These new developments were recognized as profoundly affecting public use of the National Park System. [6]

a. Population Growth. About this time the nation seemed almost suddenly to become conscious of the implications of rapid population growth, both at home and around the world. When the National Park Service was established in 1916, the population of the United States was approximately 100,000,000. By 1967 it reached 200,000,000 and within 35 years it was expected to reach 350,000,000. After the year 2000 the situation as foreseen by Secretary Udall was many times more disturbing. He suggested that by the middle of the next century ". . . for every person who now hopes to camp in the summertime on the floor of Yosemite Valley, there will be . . . nine. For every present hiker down the John Muir Trail along the spine of the Sierra, there will be nine. For every tin can and bottle and carton that now litters park and wilderness trails, there will be nine. For every hundred people on the beach at Drakes Bay, there will be at least 900 and conceivably several times that many. Here we have, in dramatic and depressing terms, the geography of rising population." [7]

b. Travel. Travel in the United States continued to grow at a sharply accelerating rate, far faster than population. The number of automobiles increased from 5-1/2 million in 1918 to over 78 million in 1967. Eight and a half million new automobiles were being added to the motor pool each year. Two and even three-car families were common. The Congress of the United States appropriated over 13 billion dollars to build a massive new interstate highway system to link all parts of the nation by multiple lane, high-speed, nonstop expressways. These facilities, combined with increasing leisure time and growing affluence, caused travel to pyramid and visits to outdoor recreation areas to mushroom. From 1953 to 1959, for example, use of outdoor recreation areas increased 143 percent while population was growing only ten percent. The National Park System felt its share of the increase. Based on the size of the System in 1956, MISSION 66 estimated 80,000,000 visits by 1966, but the actual number to the growing System was 133,000,000 or 66 percent more. By 1959, Marion Clawson estimated that the 1950 demand for national park use might multiply 40 times by the year 2000, [8] to the fantastic possible total of 1,320,000,000.

c. Outdoor Recreation. These forces led to a new appraisal of the problems of outdoor recreation in the United States. The Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission was established and made its report, Outdoor Recreation for America, to the President and Congress in 1962. [9] It introduced new concepts into the park and recreation field, and made comprehensive studies of public demands for outdoor recreation and available resources to meet the needs. Recommendations included a major proposal for land classification within Federal recreation areas, establishment of a Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, creation of a Land and Water Conservation Fund, and preparation of a new National Recreation Plan. The ORRRC Report and its aftermath are having a major influence on management concepts for the National Park System and on proposals for its enlargement.

d. Wilderness Preservation. The pressures of mounting population, travel and outdoor recreation activities on the remaining wilderness led to the Wilderness Act of 1964. This legislation, a new assertion of the importance of wilderness preservation, has laid the foundation for formal designation of wilderness areas in many units of the National Park System. It has resulted in important new master plan studies for each national park and many national monuments; intensive investigation of projected wilderness areas by conservation and other groups throughout the country; and important public hearings on the proposed boundaries of wilderness areas in units of the National Park System.

e. The New Conservation. Embracing all these forces and others, was the vision of a "new conservation" concerned with the quality of our total environment. This concept, and all that it implies, is having a profound effect on the National Park Service and its relationship to other Federal, state and local conservation programs. Among aspects of the "new conservation" particularly relevant to the National Park Service are the Natural Beauty Program, and the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which carries the historic preservation program far beyond the National Park System to protect history's place in our total environment, national, state and local.


Last Modified: Thurs, Mar 14 2002 7:08 am PDT