While this type of national park had been proposed previously, the United States established the first "public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people", Yellowstone National Park, in 1872, although Yellowstone was not gazetted as a national park. The first officially designated national park was Mackinac Island, gazetted in 1875. Australia's Royal National Park, established in 1879, was the world's second officially established national park. In 1895 ownership of Mackinac Island was transferred to the State of Michigan as a state park and national park status was consequently lost. As a result Australia's Royal National Park is either the oldest or second oldest national park now in existence.
The largest national park in the world meeting the IUCN definition is the Northeast Greenland National Park, which was established in 1974. According to the IUCN, 6,555 national parks worldwide met its criteria in 2006. IUCN is still discussing the parameters of defining a national park.
National parks are almost always open to visitors. Most national parks provide outdoor recreation and camping opportunities as well as classes designed to educate the public on the importance of conservation and the natural wonders of the land in which the national park is located.
- Definitions 1
- History 2
Biodiversity and other objects of protection 3
- Marine national parks 3.1.1
- Scientific studies in national parks 3.2
- The ten largest national parks in the world 3.3
- Biodiversity 3.1
- Legal framework 4
Economic ramifications 5
- Tourism 5.1
- Staff 5.2
- See also 6
- Notes 7.1
- Further reading 7.2
- External links 8
In 1969, the IUCN declared a national park to be a relatively large area with the following defining characteristics:
- 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, educational, and recreational interest or which contain a natural landscape of great beauty;
- 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; and
- 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:
- Minimum size of 1,000 hectares within zones in which protection of nature takes precedence
- Statutory legal protection
- Budget and staff sufficient to provide sufficient effective protection
- Prohibition of exploitation of natural resources (including the development of dams) qualified by such activities as sport, fishing, the need for management, facilities, etc.
While the term national park is now defined by the IUCN, many protected areas in many countries are called national park even when they correspond to other categories of the IUCN Protected Area Management Definition, for example:
- Swiss National Park, Switzerland: IUCN Ia - Strict Nature Reserve
- Everglades National Park, USA: IUCN Ib - Wilderness Area
- Białowieża National Park, Poland: IUCN II National Park
- Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe: IUCN III - National Monument
- Vitosha National Park, Bulgaria: IUCN IV - Habitat Management Area
- New Forest National Park, United Kingdom: IUCN V - Protected Landscape
- Etniko Ygrotopiko Parko Delta Evrou, Greece: IUCN VI - Managed Ressource Protected Area
While national parks are generally understood to be administered by national governments (hence the name), in Australia national parks are run by state governments and predate the Federation of Australia; similarly, national parks in the Netherlands are administered by the provinces. In many countries, including Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, national parks do not adhere to the IUCN definition, while some areas which adhere to the IUCN definition are not designated as national parks.
HistoryWilliam Wordsworth described the Lake District as a
sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.The painter American West, wrote during the 1830s that the Native Americans in the United States might be preserved
(by some great protecting policy of government) ...in a magnificent park ...A nation's Park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!
The first effort by any government to set aside such protected lands was in the United States, on April 20, 1832, when President Andrew Jackson signed legislation that the 22nd United States Congress had enacted to set aside four sections of land around what is now Hot Springs, Arkansas, to protect the natural, thermal springs and adjoining mountainsides for the future disposal of the U.S. government. It was known as Hot Springs Reservation, but no legal authority was established. Federal control of the area was not clearly established until 1877.
John Muir is today referred to as the "Father of the National Parks" due to his work in Yosemite. He published two influential articles in The Century Magazine, which formed the base for the subsequent legislation.
President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress on July 1, 1864, ceding the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (later becoming Yosemite National Park) to the state of California. According to this bill, private ownership of the land in this area was no longer possible. The state of California was designated to manage the park for "public use, resort, and recreation". Leases were permitted for up to ten years and the proceeds were to be used for conservation and improvement. A public discussion followed this first legislation of its kind and there was a heated debate over whether the government had the right to create parks. The perceived mismanagement of Yosemite by the Californian state was the reason why Yellowstone at its establishment six years later was put under national control.
In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the United States' first national park, being also the world's first national park. In some European countries, however, national protection and nature reserves already existed, such as Drachenfels (Germany, 1822) and a part of Forest of Fontainebleau (France, 1861).
Yellowstone was part of a federally governed territory. With no state government that could assume stewardship of the land so the federal government took on direct responsibility for the park, the official first national park of the United States. The combined effort and interest of conservationists, politicians and the Northern Pacific Railroad ensured the passage of enabling legislation by the United States Congress to create Yellowstone National Park. Theodore Roosevelt, 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.
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.
In his book Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks, Mark David Spence made the point that in order to create these uninhabited spaces, the United States first had to disposess the Indians who were living in them.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. 64th United States Congress was enacted and President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law on August 25, 1916. Of the 401 sites managed by the National Park Service of the United States, only 59 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 was established just south of Sydney in 1879, becoming the world's second official national park (actually 3rd, Mackinac National Park in Michigan was created in 1875). Rocky Mountain National Park became Canada's first national park in 1885. New Zealand established Tongariro National Park in 1887. In Europe 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 designated an area of what is now Democratic Republic of Congo centred on the Virunga Mountains as the Albert National Park (since renamed Virunga National Park). In 1973, Mount Kilimanjaro was classified as a National Park and was opened to public access in 1977. In 1926, the government of South Africa designated Kruger National Park as the nation's first national park, although it was an expansion of the earlier Sabie Game Reserve established in 1898 by President Paul Kruger of the old South African Republic, after whom the park was named. After World War II, national parks were founded all over the world. The Vanoise National Park in the Alps was the first French national park, created in 1963 after public mobilization against a touristic project.
The world's first national park service was established May 19, 1911, in Canada. The Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act placed the dominion parks under the administration of Dominion Park Branch (now Parks Canada). The branch was established to "protect sites of natural wonder" to provide a recreational experience, centred on the idea of the natural world providing rest and spiritual renewal from the urban setting. Canada now has the largest protected area in the world with 377,000 km² of national park space. In 1989, the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve (QNNP) was created to protect 3.381 million hectares on the north slope of Mount Everest in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. This national park is the first major global park to have no separate warden and protection staff—all of its management being done through existing local authorities, allowing a lower cost basis and a larger geographical coverage (in 1989 when created, it was the largest protected area in Asia). It includes four of the six highest mountains Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu. The QNNP is contiguous to four Nepali national parks, creating a transborder conservation area equal in size to Switzerland.
Lower Consolation Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Biodiversity and other objects of protection
Marine national parks
Scientific studies in national parks
The ten largest national parks in the world
Countries with a large nature-based tourism industry, such as Costa Rica, often experience a huge economic effect on park management as well as the economy of the country as a whole.
Tourism to national parks has increased considerably over time. In Costa Rica for example, a megadiverse country, tourism to parks has increased by 400% from 1985 to 1999. The term national park is perceived as a brand name that is associated with nature-based tourism and it symbolizes "high quality natural environment and well-design tourism infrastructure".
The duties of a park ranger are to supervise, manage, and/or perform work in the conservation and use of Federal park resources. This involves functions such as park conservation; natural, historical, and cultural resource management; and the development and operation of interpretive and recreational programs for the benefit of the visiting public. Park rangers also have fire fighting responsibilities and execute search and rescue missions. Activities also include heritage interpretation to disseminate information to visitors of general, historical, or scientific information. Management of resources such as wildlife, lakeshores, seashores, forests, historic buildings, battlefields, archeological properties, and recreation areas are also part of the job of a park ranger  Since the establishment of the National Park Service in the US in 1916, the role of the park ranger has shifted from merely being a custodian of natural resources to include several activities that are associated with law enforcement. They control traffic and investigate violations, complaints, trespass/encroachment, and accidents.
- Conservation ecology
- Conservation movement
- Federal lands – in the United States
- Fossil park
- Global Geoparks Network
- International Park
- List of national parks – by country
- Lists of tourist attractions
- National monument – in the United States
- National Park Foundation
- National Park Travelers Club
- National Parks Conservation Association
- Provincial park
- Sustainable development
- The National Parks: America's Best Idea
- United Nations Environment Programme
- World Database on Protected Areas
- Europarc Federation (eds.) 2009, Living Parks, 100 Years of National Parks in Europe, Oekom Verlag, Munchen
- The Act
- "National parks". Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.
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- Gulez, Sumer (1992). A method of evaluating areas for national park status.
- European Environment Agency Protected areas in Europe – an overview In: EEA Report No 5/2012 Kopenhagen: 2012 ISBN 978-92-9213-329-0 ISSN 1725-9177 pdf doi=10.2800/55955
- Gissibl, B., S. Höhler and P. Kupper, 2012, Civilizing Nature, National Parks in Global Historical Perspective, Berghahn, Oxford
- Shugart, Sharon (2004). "Hot Springs of Arkansas Through the Years: A Chronology of Events" (PDF).
- Peters, Richard, ed. (1866). "Twenty-Second Congress, Session 1, Chap. 70: An Act authorizing the governor of the territory of Arkansas to lease the salt springs, in said territory, and for other purposes (April 20, 1832)". from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America from December 1863, to December 1865 4. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown. p. 505.
- Miller, Barbara Kiely (2008). John Muir. Gareth Stevens. p. 10.
- John Muir. Features of the Proposed Yosemite National Park In: The Century Magazine, Vol. XL. September, 1890. No. 5
- John Muir. The Treasures of the Yosemite The Century Magazine, Vol. XL. August, 1890. No. 4
- Adam Wesley Dean. Natural Glory in the Midst of War: The Establishment of Yosemite State Park In: Abstract. Civil War History Volume 56, Number 4, December 2010 pp. 386-419 | 10.1353/cwh.2010.0008
- Mangan, Elizabeth U. Yellowstone, the First National Park from Mapping the National Parks. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
- Kimberly A. Jones, Simon R. Kelly, Sarah Kennel, Helga Kessler-Aurisch, In the forest of Fontainebleau: painters and photographers from Corot to Monet, National Gallery of Art, 2008, p.23
- "Famous Quotes Concerning the National Parks: Wallace Stegner, 1983". Discover History.
- Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999 : Review by Colin Fisher, H-Environment, August 2000
- "Kilimanjaro: The National Park". Private Kilimanjaro: About Kilimanjaro. Private Expeditions, Ltd. 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- Irish, Paul (May 13, 2011). "Parks Canada celebrates a century of discovery". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
- "Parks Canada History". Parks Canada. February 2, 2009. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
- "Parks Canada". Parks Canada. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
- Daniel C. Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, Jesse O. Taylor, Empowerment on an Unstable Planet New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, Chapter 9
- McMillan, A.J.S.; Horobin, J.F. (1995), Christmas Cacti : The genus Schlumbergera and its hybrids (p/b ed.), Sherbourne, Dorset: David Hunt,
- Eagles, Paul F.J. Trends in Park Tourism: Economics, Finance and Management. In: Journal of Sustainable Tourism Volume 10, Issue 2, 2002, p. 134. Doi:10.1080/09669580208667158
- Eagles, Paul F.J. Trends in Park Tourism: Economics, Finance and Management. In: Journal of Sustainable Tourism Volume 10, Issue 2, 2002, p. 133. Doi:10.1080/09669580208667158
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Handbook of occupational groups and families. Washington, D.C. January 2008. Page 19. OPM.gov Accessed November 2, 2014.
- R Meadows ; D L Soden In: National Park Ranger Attitudes and Perceptions Regarding Law Enforcement Issues. Abstract. Justice Professional Volume:3 Issue:1 Dated:(Spring 1988) Pages:70-93
- Sellars, Richard West (2009). Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History. Yale University Press. 404 pages.
- Eagles, Paul F. J; McCool, Stephen F. (2002). Tourism in National Parks and Protected Areas: Planning and Management. CABI. 320 pages.
- U.S. National Park Service FAQs
- Protected Planet – World Database of Protected Areas
- UNESCO — Man and the Biosphere Programme (Biosphere Reserves)
- World Heritage Sites
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: National Parks
- World Database on Protected Areas
- EUROPARC Federation — Europe's protected areas
- National Parks Worldwide