National Parks Week begins Saturday, April 16, and parks across the country will host a variety of special events and digital experiences.
Entrance fees are waived to encourage everyone to enjoy their national parks.
The first national park in the world was created before the creation of the National Park Service. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone National Park, designating more than 2 million acres of land in the Territory of Montana and Wyoming to be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or land of pleasure for the benefit and pleasure of the people.” This law places the park under the control of the Secretary of the Interior, who is responsible for preserving its natural resources.
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, which authorizes presidents to proclaim and preserve historic monuments, structures, and “other objects of historical or scientific interest.” Nearly a quarter of the units in the national parks network stem in whole or in part from this law.
On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was established by Organic Law, signed by President Woodrow Wilson. At this stage, more than 35 sites were overseen by the Ministry of Interior and a unified management structure was needed.
Today, the Park Service protects and preserves 423 sites, covering more than 85 million acres, and employs more than 20,000 people who care for public lands and cultural heritage.
The Park Service is primarily funded by Congress through annual appropriations and mandatory funds. The national park system also receives funds through park entrance and user fees and private philanthropy.
The 2022 budget request for the Park Service is for $3.5 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $380.6 million from 2021.
Of the system’s 423 sites, only 25 received more than 50% of the system’s 297.1 million total recreational visits in 2021. Visits last year were up 60 million from 2020, when COVID-19 a closed most park facilities for at least part of the year.
Mortality statistics (2014-2016)
A total of 990 deaths were reported in national parks from 2014 to 2016, an average of six per week.
The Park Service fatality rate is 0.1 deaths per 100,000 recreational visits, which is very low compared to the fatality rate for the entire US population (844 deaths/100,000 people).
Most of the deceased (79%) were men.
More than half (53%) were due to unintentional causes such as drowning or road accidents.
About half of medical deaths (49%) occurred while the person was engaged in physical activity such as hiking, biking or swimming.
National Park Foundation survey
Which of the National Park Foundations priorities is most important to you?
1. Protect wildlife
2. Improve park facilities
3. Connecting youth to parks
4. Provide emergency funding
5. Increase access to parks
National Park Service emblem
The arrowhead shape was authorized by the Secretary of the Interior on July 20, 1951. It is not officially documented, but the elements of the emblem symbolize major facets of the national park system:
• The redwood and bison represent vegetation and wildlife.
• Mountains and water represent scenic and recreational values.
• The arrowhead represents historical and archaeological values.
Sources: National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, Thrillist, Register research