05 Resources of the National Parks

National Academy of Sciences Advisory Committee on Research in the National Parks: The Robbins Report

Resources of the National Parks

The National Park System includes 187 units comprising 22,967,763.55 acres of which 22,560,437.64 acres are federally owned. Of the 187 areas, 31 are known as national parks and cover 13,561,082.46 acres of which all but 228,165.78 acres are federally owned. [1] The 31 national parks are located in 24 of the 50 States and in the Virgin Islands.

The national parks, together with some of the national monuments, comprise a bewildering array of notable examples of scenic beauty, desert solitudes, unique geology, archeology and paleontology, and an unequaled range of plant and animal life. There are rugged coastal areas (Acadia, Maine; Olympic, Washington); spectacular mountain and desert scenery (Big Bend, Texas); colorful and unique caverns with magnificent and curious formations (Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico; Mammoth Cave, Kentucky; Wind Cave, South Dakota); a lake of deepest blue in the heart of an inactive volcano (Crater Lake, Oregon); the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the United States (Everglades, Florida); superb mountain scenery with glaciers and lakes (Glacier, Montana; Mount McKinley, Alaska; Mount Rainier, Washington); spectacular river canyons (Grand Canyon, Arizona; Kings Canyon, California); active and inactive volcanoes (Lassen Volcano, California; Hawaii Volcanoes, Hawaii); cliff dwellings of ancient man (Mesa Verde, Colorado); geysers and hot springs (Yellowstone, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho; Hot Springs, Arkansas); island and mountain wilderness areas (Isle Royale, Michigan; Olympic, Washington); the Grand Tetons in Wyoming; Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee; Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia; groves of giant sequoias (California); the mountains and waterfalls of Yosemite; tropical plant and animal life (Virgin Islands). Some features of each park represent the best and perhaps only examples of their kind in the United States. In some instances, these features are unique or nearly unique in the world: the geysers of the Yellowstone National Park, the giant sequoias, the redwoods, the temperate rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, the Grand Canyon.

Even a casual examination of the natural resources of the National Park System of the United States inspires admiration for those who conceived the idea, pride in the possession of such natural treasures, and sympathy for those who have the responsibility for their management.

It emphasizes also that in the preservation of these natural resources, the United States has an obligation to the world community. At the First World Conference on National Parks held in Seattle, Washington, 1962, the leadership of the United States in the field of park preservation was universally recognized. The Secretary of the Interior pledged the efforts of this country to continue this leadership by maintaining the quality of our parks and by sharing our experience with other interested countries. That we may be worthy of our reputation, that the people of the United States may continue to enjoy their national parks and that we may wisely advise other countries upon request, this Committee has given its attention and consideration to the role of research in natural history in the national parks and has made its recommendations.

It is our conclusion that the national parks of the United States represent one of the most valuable heritages of this country; that in setting aside these lands the people and government of the United States have demonstrated particular wisdom; and that the role of national parks in the lives of our citizens is dramatically enlarging. The Committee is likewise convinced that unless drastic steps are immediately taken there is a strong possibility that within this generation we will see reduction of several if not all of our parks to a state totally different from that for which they were preserved and for which they were to be enjoyed.

1The National Park Service is eliminating private inholdings as rapidly as appropriations permit because their usage does not conform to the purpose for which the parks were established.

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