Hartzog – National Park Foundation

One other topic that we haven’t gotten to is the creation of the National Park Foundation in 1967. Could you tell me a little about your role in that?

Sure can. There was an existing board called the National Park Trust Fund Board which consisted of the secretary of the treasury, the attorney general, and the secretary of the interior to solicit donations for the National Park Service. It never really amounted to very much for two reasons. One was that the secretary of the treasury managed it and any donation received immediately had to be converted to cash and invested in government bonds. Well, people had the first inclination of not wanting to give to the government after they had just paid their taxes. Secondly, they could see the asset losing value as it was converted to government bonds, so it [the National Trust Fund Board’s effort] was not going anywhere.

Connie Wirth hired a young man named Donald Thurber, who was a very wonderful bright guy, and I believe he was from Detroit, if I’m not mistaken, as a financial consultant, to have a look at this and decide what to do. He came up with the idea that the trust fund board ought to be abolished and in lieu of it we ought to establish a regular foundation that would be managed by private trustees, and that would be the National Park Foundation. We didn’t have any such thing as that.

That legislation was pending as a proposal, not as an introduced piece of legislation, but simply as a proposal in the Interior Department when I became director. It finally came to my attention, and I thought it was a brilliant idea. I talked with the committees and the committees agreed, so we introduced it and we passed it, and we were the first ones who had one of these National Park Foundations and it was the genesis, the groundbreaker, for seven more that followed for the Fish and Wildlife and Forest Service. All of the land-management agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, wound up getting these foundations to support their programs. So that’s the background on how we got the National Park Foundation.

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