National Park Service is Founded

Realizing the specialized nature of national park work and the desirability of unifying the parks into one integrated system, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane in 1915 induced the late Stephen T. Mather to accept appointment as his assistant to take charge of park matters. A keen lover of the out-of-doors, Mr. Mather accepted the appointment because he saw in it an opportunity to devote his energies to the furtherance of national parks. Under his efficient leadership the work was coordinated and expanded, and, on August 25, 1916, President Wilson signed a bill creating the National Park Service as a separate bureau of the Department of the Interior. The Service was organized in 1917.

Senator Reed Smoot of Utah and Representative William Kent of California sponsored the bills in Congress which resulted in establishment of the Service. Representative Kent's bill was passed by the House on July 1, 1916, and the Smoot bill was passed by the Senate as amended, August 5, 1916. (Mr. Kent had previously introduced three similar bills, and one had also been introduced in the House by Representative John E. Raker of California.) The Senate amendments were disagreed to by the House, and conferees were appointed to consider them. The conference report was made and agreed to in the Senate on August 15, and in the House on August 22.

National parks and national monuments in the United States were originally individually managed under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. The movement for an independent agency to oversee these federal lands was spearheaded by business magnate and conservationist Stephen Mather, as well as J. Horace McFarland. With the help of journalist Robert Sterling Yard, Mather ran a publicity campaign for the Department of the Interior. They wrote numerous articles that praised the scenic qualities of the parks and their possibilities for educational, inspirational, and recreational benefits. This campaign resulted in the creation of a National Park Service. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that mandated the agency "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Mather became the first director of the newly formed NPS.