National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently (for example, see Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

), an international organization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its World Commission on Protected Areas
World Commission on Protected Areas
The World Commission on Protected Areas is one of six Commissions of the IUCN . WCPA is the world's premier network of protected area expertise...

, has defined National Parks as its category II type of protected areas. While ideas for this type of national park had been suggested previously, the United States established the first such one, Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho...

, in 1872. The largest national park
A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

 in the world meeting the IUCN definition is the Northeast Greenland National Park
Northeast Greenland National Park
Northeast Greenland National Park is the largest national park in the world, with an area of , making the park larger than 163 countries. It is the only national park in Greenland, and the most northerly national park in the world, its most northerly point reaching slightly further than the most...

, which was established in 1974. According to the IUCN, there were 6,555 national parks worldwide in 2006 that meet its criteria.


In 1969 the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) declared a national park to be a relatively large area with particular defining characteristics. A national park was deemed to be a place
  • with one or several ecosystems not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation, where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites and habitats are of special scientific, educative and recreative interest or which contain a natural landscape of great beauty.
  • the highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate exploitation or occupation as soon as possible in the whole area and to effectively enforce the respect of ecological, geomorphological, or aesthetic features which have led to its establishment.
  • visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educative, cultural, and recreative purposes.

In 1971 these criteria were further expanded upon leading to more clear and defined benchmarks to evaluate a national park. These include:
  • a minimum size of 1,000 hectares within zones in which protection of nature takes precedence
  • statutory legal protection
  • a budget and staff sufficient to provide sufficient effective protection
  • prohibition of exploitation of natural resources (including the development of dams
    Driot-Arnoux Motorsport is a racing team from France, involved in many areas of motorsports. DAMS was founded in 1988 by Jean-Paul Driot and former Formula One driver René Arnoux. It is headquartered near Le Mans, only 2 km from the Bugatti Circuit.- History :The year after its foundation,...

    ) qualified by such activities as sport, fishing, the need for management, facilities, etc.

While national parks are generally understood to be administered by national governments (hence the name), in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 national parks are run by state governments and predate the Federation of Australia
Federation of Australia
The Federation of Australia was the process by which the six separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia formed one nation...



In 1835, the English poet William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

 described the Lake District
Lake District
The Lake District, also commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes and its mountains but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth...

 as a The painter George Catlin
George Catlin
George Catlin was an American painter, author and traveler who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West.-Early years:...

, in his travels through the American West, wrote during the 1830s that the Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 might be preserved Similar ideas were expressed in other countries—in Sweden, for instance, the Finnish-born Baron Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld
Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld
Freiherr Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld , also known as A. E. Nordenskioeld was a Finnish baron, geologist, mineralogist and arctic explorer of Finnish-Swedish origin. He was a member of the prominent Finland-Swedish Nordenskiöld family of scientists...

 made such a proposition in 1880. The Scottish-American naturalist John Muir
John Muir
John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions...

 was inspirational in the foundation of national parks, anticipating many ideas of conservationism, environmentalism, and the animal rights movement.

The first effort by any government to set aside such protected lands was in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, on April 20, 1832, when President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 signed legislation that the 22nd United States Congress
22nd United States Congress
-House of Representatives:-Leadership:- Senate :* President:** John C. Calhoun , resigned December 28, 1832, thereafter vacant.* President pro tempore:** Samuel Smith , first elected December 5, 1831** Littleton W...

 had enacted to set aside four sections of land around what is now Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs is the 10th most populous city in the U.S. state of Arkansas, the county seat of Garland County, and the principal city of the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area encompassing all of Garland County...

 to protect the natural, thermal springs and adjoining mountainsides for the future disposal of the US government. It was known as the Hot Springs Reservation
Hot Springs National Park
Established from Hot Springs Reservation, Hot Springs National Park is a United States National Park in central Arkansas adjacent to the city of Hot Springs. Hot Springs Reservation was initially created by an act of the United States Congress on April 20, 1832, and the area was made a national...

. However no legal authority was established and federal control of the area was not clearly established until 1877.

The next effort by any government to set aside such protected lands was, again, in the United States, when President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 signed an Act of Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 on June 30, 1864, ceding the Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in the western Sierra Nevada mountains of California, carved out by the Merced River. The valley is about long and up to a mile deep, surrounded by high granite summits such as Half Dome and El Capitan, and densely forested with pines...

 and the Mariposa Grove
Mariposa Grove
Mariposa Grove is a sequoia grove located near Wawona, California, United States, in the southernmost part of Yosemite National Park. It is the largest grove of Giant Sequoias in the park, with several hundred mature examples of the tree...

 of Giant Sequoias (later becoming the Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States. The park covers an area of and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain...

) to the state of California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the world's first truly national park. When news of the natural wonders of the Yellowstone were first promulgated, the land was part of a federally governed territory. Unlike Yosemite, there was no state government that could assume stewardship of the land, so the federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 took on direct responsibility for the park, a process formally completed on October 1, 1890—the official first national park of the United States. It took the combined effort and interest of conservationists, politicians and especially businesses—namely, the Northern Pacific Railroad, whose route through Montana would greatly benefit by the creation of this new tourist attraction—to ensure the passage of that landmark enabling legislation by the United States Congress to create Yellowstone National Park. Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, already an active campaigner and so influential as good stump speakers were highly necessary in the pre-telecommunications era, was highly influential in convincing fellow Republicans and big business to back the bill.
American Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning author Wallace Stegner
Wallace Stegner
Wallace Earle Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist, often called "The Dean of Western Writers"...

, has written:
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.
Even with the creation of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and nearly 37 other national parks and monuments, another 44 years passed before an agency was created in the United States to administer these units in a comprehensive way — the U.S. National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 (NPS). Businessman Stephen Mather and his journalist partner Robert Sterling Yard
Robert Sterling Yard
Robert Sterling Yard was an American writer, journalist, and wilderness activist. Born in Haverstraw, New York, Yard graduated from Princeton University and spent the first twenty years of his career in the editing and publishing business...

 pushed hardest for the creation of the NPS, writing then-Secretary of the Interior Franklin Knight Lane
Franklin Knight Lane
Franklin Knight Lane was an American Democratic politician from California who served as United States Secretary of the Interior from 1913 to 1920...

 about such a need and spearheading a large publicity campaign for their movement. Lane invited Mather to come to Washington, DC to work with him to draft and see passage of the National Park Service Organic Act, which the 64th United States Congress
64th United States Congress
The Sixty-fourth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from March 4, 1915 to March 4, 1917, during the third and fourth...

 enacted and which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law on August 25, 1916. Of the sites managed by the National Park Service of the United States, only 58 carry the designation of National Park.
Following the idea established in Yellowstone there soon followed parks in other nations. In Australia, the Royal National Park
Royal National Park
Royal National Park is a national park in New South Wales, Australia, 29 km south of Sydney CBD.Founded by Sir John Robertson, Acting Premier of New South Wales, and formally proclaimed on 26 April 1879, it is the world's second oldest purposed national park, the first usage of the term...

 was established just south of Sydney in 1879. Rocky Mountain National Park
Banff National Park
Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110–180 kilometres west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine...

 became Canada's first national park in 1885. New Zealand
National parks of New Zealand
The national parks of New Zealand are 14 protected areas administered by the Department of Conservation "for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of the public". These are popular tourist destinations, with three-tenths of tourists visiting at least one national park during their stay in New Zealand...

 established Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, located in the central North Island. It has been acknowledged by UNESCO as one of the 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites....

 in 1887. In Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 the first national parks were a set of nine parks in Sweden in 1909; Europe has some 359 national parks as of 2010. Africa's first national park was established in 1925 when Albert I of Belgium
Albert I of Belgium
Albert I reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 until 1934.-Early life:Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad in Brussels, he was the fifth child and second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen...

 designated an area of what is now Democratic Republic of Congo centred around the Virunga Mountains
Virunga Mountains
The Virunga Mountains are a chain of volcanoes in East Africa, along the northern border of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. The mountain range is a branch of the Albertine Rift, a part of the Great Rift Valley. They are located between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu...

 as the Albert National Park (since renamed Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park
The Virunga National Park , formerly named Albert National Park, is a 7800 square km National Park that stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori...

). In 1973, Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at above sea level .-Geology:...

 was classified as a National Park and was opened to public access in 1977. In 1926, the government of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 designated Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers and extends from north to south and from east to west.To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is...

 as the nation's first national park. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, national parks were founded all over the world. The Vanoise National Park
Vanoise National Park
Vanoise National Park , is a French national park in the Tarentaise Valley in the French Alps, created in 1963 after mobilization from the environmentalist movement against a touristic project. It was the first French national park. This park is in the département of Savoie...

 in the Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 was the first French national park, created in 1963 after public mobilization against a touristic project
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...


See also

  • List of national parks (by country)
  • National monument - in the United States
  • Parks Canada
    Parks Canada
    Parks Canada , also known as the Parks Canada Agency , is an agency of the Government of Canada mandated to protect and present nationally significant natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative...

     - the oldest parks service in the world
  • Conservation movement
    Conservation movement
    The conservation movement, also known as nature conservation, is a political, environmental and a social movement that seeks to protect natural resources including animal, fungus and plant species as well as their habitat for the future....

  • Conservation ecology
    Conservation biology
    Conservation biology is the scientific study of the nature and status of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction...

  • Federal lands
    Federal lands
    Federal lands are lands in the United States for which ownership is claimed by the U.S. federal government.-Primary federal land holders:*Bureau of Land Management*United States Forest Service*United States Fish and Wildlife Service*National Park Service...

     - in the United States
  • Fossil park
    Fossil park
    A fossil park is a protected area with rich deposits of fossils. Fossil parks may be used in educating the public, and there are many fossil parks all over the world.-See also:* Paleorrota* List of Fossil Parks* Fossils* Fossil Hunters* Rockhounding...

  • National Park Service
    National Park Service
    The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

     - National Parks in the United States
  • National Park Foundation
    National Park Foundation
    Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s nearly 400 national parks. Funds contributed to the Foundation are invested directly into the national parks...

  • National Parks Conservation Association
    National Parks Conservation Association
    The National Parks Conservation Association is the only independent, membership organization devoted exclusively to advocacy on behalf of the National Parks System...

  • International Network of Geoparks
    International Network of Geoparks
    The Global Geoparks Network is a UNESCO programme established in 1998. Managed under the body’s Ecological and Earth Sciences Division, the GGN seeks the promotion and conservation of the planet’s geological heritage, as well as encourages the sustainable research and development by the concerned...

  • International Park
  • Outdoor exploration
    Outdoor exploration
    Outdoor Exploration is a collective expression for activities that include exploring the geography around us. Although many people immediately think of the more specialist activities such as...

  • National Forest
  • Sustainable development
    Sustainable development
    Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come...

  • United Nations Environment Programme
    United Nations Environment Programme
    The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

  • The National Parks: America's Best Idea
    The National Parks: America's Best Idea
    The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a 2009 documentary film for television, DVD and companion book by director/producer Ken Burns and producer/writer Dayton Duncan which features the United States National Park system and traces the system's history...

  • Provincial park
    Provincial park
    A provincial park is a park under the management of a provincial or territorial government in Canada.While provincial parks are not the same as national parks, their workings are very similar...

  • National Park Travelers Club
    National Park Travelers Club
    The National Park Travelers Club is a non-profit 5017 social club organization. Its mission is to provide networking and recognition opportunities for visitors to America's National Park System. This Club acts to support and expand appreciation of the U.S...

External links

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