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William Kent, photograph by Harris and Ewing, n.d.

Representative William Kent of California served in Congress from 1911 to 1917. In addition to sponsoring the National Park Service Act, he personally donated a redwood grove to create Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

William Kent, photograph by Harris and Ewing, n.d.

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