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Quotations Tied To National Parks Worth Mulling


The beauty of the national parks has inspired a lot of quotable quotes down through the decades.

With nearly 100 years of history, the National Park Service and its wonderful system have attracted a lot of quotable quotes, some inspiring, some concerning. Here is a baker's dozen of statements -- some thought-provoking, others merely interesting -- that have been tied to the system down through the years.

* "It is not possible to provide essential services. Visitor concentration points can't be kept in sanitary condition. Comfort stations can't be kept clean and serviced. Water, sewer, and electrical systems are taxed to the utmost. Protective services to safeguard the public and preseve park values are far short of requirements. Physical facilities are deteriorating or are inadequate to meet public needs. Some of the camps are approaching rural slums." -- National Park Service Director Conrad Wirth, pointing out problems related to inadequate congressional funding, in a Reader's Digest article, 1955.

* "Standing where I am tonight, a radius of four hundred miles includes ... a population amounting to almost one-third of that of the whole country. ... And as this is to be a park to meet the needs of the greatest number who will be attracted, it is not necessary to establish it so far from our Nation's Capitol. Let us establish it here, and let us establish another later, farther down the line." -- Col. H.J. Benchoff in persuading Harlan P. Kelsey, former president of the Appalachian Mountain Club and supporter of a Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to get behind a Shenandoah National Park, 1924

* "We pass with rapid transition from one remarkable vision to another, each unique of its kind and surpassing all others in the known world. The intelligent American will one day point on the map to this remarkable district with the conscious pride that it has not its parallel on the face of the globe." -- Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, 1872.

* "Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land." -- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949

* "A park is an artificial unit, not an independent biological unit with natural boundaries (unless it happens to be an island)." -- George M. Wright et al., 1933

* "If you think that Alaska is a long way to go for a national park, so was Yellowstone in 1872. Now Yellowstone is irreplaceable. So is Alaska and so are its unspoiled wildlands and magnificent wildlife." -- Alaska Coalition brochure, 1977

* "Congress (and the public which elects it) can always be expected to hesitate longer over an appropriation to acquire or protect a national park than over one to build a highway into it. Yet there is nothing which so rapidly turns a wilderness into a reserve and a reserve into a resort." -- Joseph Wood Krutch, 1957

* "Do not let the Service become just another executive government bureau; keep it youthful, vigorous, clean and strong." -- Horace M. Albright, second director of the National Park Service.

* "The influence of (the national parks) is far beyond what is usually esteemed or usually considered. It has a relation to efficiency -- the working efficiency of the people, to their health, and particularly to their patriotism -- which would make the parks worth while, if there were not a cent of revenue in it, and if every visitor to the parks meant that the Government would have to pay a tax of $1 simply to get him there." -- J. Horace McFarland, early proponent of a National Park Service, 1916.

* "It is now recognized that (national) Parks contain more than scenery." -- Harold Bryant, cofounder, Yosemite Free Nature Guide Service, 1929

* "I will err on the side of public use versus preservation." -- Interior Secretary James Watt, 1981

* "The results of this study indicate that no parks of the System are immune to external and internal threats, and that these threats are causing significant and demonstrable damage." State of the Parks Report, 1980

* "Our national parks system is a national museum. Its purpose is to preserve forever ... certain areas of extraordinary scenic magnificence in a condition of primitive nature. Its recreational value is also very great, but recreation is not distinctive of the system. The function which alone distinguishes the national parks ... is the museum function made possibly only by the parks' complete conservation." - Robert Sterling Yard, 1923

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The quote about "the best idea America ever had" ought to be added!

Hi Kurt,

Some great ones there.

Here are a few that I like.

"I think that aside from constantly increasing support for the National Park System, we must consider the vision of what is to come. We should think about the use of national parks in mitigating the effects of climate change, promoting science and science education, saving endangered species, and increasing the quality of life in America by growing the parks in number, in total area, and accessibility to the American people.

"The National Park System needs a vision…. That’s what we should be talking about—expanding the National Park System, not scrambling for crumbs to keep it going. It should be part of the national vision of what will make America great."
- Dr. Edward O. Wilson, interview in National Parks magazine, Summer 2008,

“I’ve been through legislation creating a dozen national parks, and there’s always the same pattern. When you first propose a park, and you visit the area and present the case to the local people, they threaten to hang you. You go back in five years and they think it’s the greatest thing that ever happened. You go back in twenty years and they'll probably name a mountain after you.”
- Congressman Morris K. Udall, in Too Funny to Be President, 1988

“It is important that the remaining scenic areas of the country be at once made into State or National Parks. Fortunately there still are a number of these wild places, but it will require effort to save them. Each Park proposed will have powerful and insidious opposition. The insidious opposition to National Parks will say, ‘There is a feeling in Congress that we should not have any more National Parks at this time’; or, ‘We should wait until present ones are improved.’”
- Enos Mills, Your National Parks, 1917

“Many persons do not realize the difference between a [National Forest] reserve and a National Park. A forest reserve is primarily used for cattle-grazing and sawmills, while a National Park is a region wholly educational and recreational for your children and yourselves. A forest reserve is a commercial proposition, while a National Park must be estimated by higher values.”
- Enos Mills, in Your National Parks, 1917

Happy Fourth of July!


A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.
It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures
the depth of his own nature.

from the chapter "The Ponds" in Walden

Democratic in design, the U.S. National Park System is quintessentially American and a radical departure from Old World notions that kept large tracts of wild land off limits to common-ordinary citizens vs the wealthy and the super-wealthys' private hunting estates.

Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Wallace Stegner boldly called the system

“the best idea America ever had” –

a phrase that inspired the University of Minnesota Bell Museum of Natural History’s, “America’s Best Idea: A Photographic Journey Through Our National Parks”

Speaking of Thoreau, he envisioned large-scale public preservation of the Maine Woods — essentially a national park — a decade before the establishment of Yellowstone National Park.

“The kings of England formerly had their forests ‘to hold the king’s game,’ for sport or food...and I think that they were impelled by a true instinct. Why should not we, who have renounced the king’s authority, have our national preserves...not for idle sport or food, but for inspiration and our own true recreation?”

—Henry David Thoreau, “Chesuncook,” in The Maine Woods, published 1864<


Quote 2, Henry David Thoreau on Preserving LandBy rbrewer | Published:

Button found 14 April 2011 and reused
All Walden Wood might have been preserved for our park forever, with Walden in its midst, and the Easterbrooks Country, an unoccupied area of some four square miles, might have been our huckleberry-field…. As some give to Harvard College or another institution, why might not another give a forest or huckleberry-field to Concord?
–Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau is well known as America’s philosopher-naturalist. Here he gives an early statement of the need to set aside natural land. By the mid-1800s, many people were lamenting the loss of the country’s wild lands, but few took the next step of recommending preservation.  In this passage and also other writings of his later years, Thoreau did.  He not only states that every town (what in the Midwest we call a township) ought to set aside a 500- to 1000-acre preserve, but also notes that the protection should be in perpetuity (“inalienable forever’) and suggests a method–by charitable donation to the town government.
This passage was in his journal for October 15, 1859, but he was also including it, slightly reworked, in his last book, eventually published in 2000 as Wild Fruit.

“From a natural resources perspective, the NPS is an agency with a mission statement to die for, and a budget that is killing us.” – Mike Soukup, former Associate Director

And the organic act holds up pretty well to my ears:
The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is 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.

...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.

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