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Petition from the Prairie Club of Chicago in support of establishing a National Park Service, February 16, 1916

The Prairie Club of Chicago was one of many conservation groups that lobbied Congress in the early twentieth century in favor of a federal service to oversee the growing number of national parks. They believed that consolidating the management of the parks would lead to better environmental protection and greater public accessibility.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Petition from the Prairie Club of Chicago in support of establishing a National Park Service, February 16, 1916

The National Park Service

As settlement of the West depleted natural resources, conservationists urged Congress to preserve some of the nation’s most scenic and fragile environments. Congress authorized the first national park, Yellowstone, in 1872. In 1916 Representative William Kent of California and Senator Reed Smoot of Utah sponsored legislation establishing a National Park Service to oversee Yellowstone and other wilderness areas conserved by Congress. The National Park Service now maintains over 400 parks and historical sites nationwide for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

The parks do not belong to one state or to one section. . . . they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.

Stephen T. Matha, Annual Report of the Director of the National Park Service, October 14, 1920