Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service
2016 marks the centennial of the National Park Service which protects our nation’s most magnificent natural places. National parks are an American invention and are the embodiment of the profoundly democratic idea that our nation’s most beautiful natural wonders should be available to everyone, today and in the future. The centennial of the Park Service offers the opportunity to reflect on our past successes and recommit to protecting our prized resources for future generations.
The American conservation movement began in the Yosemite Valley in the 1850s. As tales of Yosemite’s stunning waterfalls and massive sequoias filtered to the East coast, President Lincoln signed the first law to preserve U.S. lands for conservation in 1864, setting aside 60 square miles of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias.
Five decades later, on August 25, 1916, President Wilson signed the law creating the National Park Service to manage the 35 existing national parks and monuments and all that would be created in the future. Today, the National Park System contains over 400 units covering 84 million acres. Thanks to the vision of early conservationists and generations of policymakers committed to furthering this vision, these priceless lands are now guaranteed permanent protection.
While most Americans are familiar with the National Parks, many are not aware that ten years before the creation of the National Park Service, Congress passed the Antiquities Act which has been very important for conservation. The Antiquities Act allows Presidents to protect cultural or natural resources by Presidential proclamation. It was under this authority that President Theodore Roosevelt protected the Grand Canyon in 1908, 11 years before Congress declared it a National Park.
Throughout my public service on the local and federal level, I have been an unswerving supporter of conservation and protecting our precious lands for future generations. From preserving California coastal and ocean resources, to ensuring that our endangered species are protected, I’ve always fought for the conservation of our nation’s natural resources. In the current Congress, I’ve sponsored legislation with Senator Barbara Boxer to protect the picturesque Cotoni-Coast Dairies federal lands in Santa Cruz County as a National Monument, along with several other parcels along the coast. Cotoni-Coast Dairies stretches from Highway 1 into the Santa Cruz Mountains and is home to six watersheds, several endangered species, rolling coastal terraces, and 500 acres of redwood forest. With the California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act, we aim to preserve the natural beauty of the coast and ensure scenic lands will be available for all to enjoy.
Our legislation has received hearings in both the House and Senate and it is strongly supported by the U.S. Department of Interior, but the bill has not been allowed to come to the House or Senate floor for a vote. That’s why I’ve joined Senator Boxer, Congresswoman Lois Capps, and Congressman Jared Huffman in asking President Obama to use his Antiquities Act authority to protect Coast Dairies and other lands along the coast as part of the California Coastal National Monument. It is my hope that President Obama will continue his strong conservation legacy by taking this action before he leaves office in January.
President Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.” I couldn’t agree more, and I’m thankful that his powerful vision of conservation has lived on in our country for over a century. Here’s to the next 100 years of preserving our greatest natural treasures for future generations.
All my best,
Anna G. Eshoo
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