Tag Archives: Frederkick Law Olmsted Jr


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One summer, while I was in college, I spent 4 months working as a fire fighter in Lassen National Forest and Park.  I lived that summer with a crew of 10 firefighters at an isolated fire station near the entrance to the Lassen Park and fought quite a few forest and brush fires in and around the park.  It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.  My respect and reverence for our forests and the natural environment was heavily influenced by that adventure.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Together, we must protect and defend our National Park System:  It Belongs To All of Us!

(Here is a link to 20 video excerpts from the Ken Burns documentary film about our National Parks.  This film took FIVE YEARS to shoot and edit.  I think it is one of the very best documentary films ever made.)



American Heroes who helped create the national park system:    In 1901, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (July 24, 1870 – December 25, 1957) was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as a member of the Senate Park Improvement Commission.  In 1910, he was approached by the American Civic Association for advice on the creation of a new bureau of national parks. This initiated six years of correspondence, including this letter on January 19, 1912:

“The present situation in regard to the national parks is very bad. They have been created one at a time by acts of Congress which have not defined at all clearly the purposes for which the lands were to be set apart, nor provided any orderly or efficient means of safeguarding the parks . . . I have made at different times two suggestions, one of which was . . . a definition of the purposes for which the national parks and monuments are to be administered by the Bureau.”

His best contribution was of a few simple words that would guide conservation in America for generations to come and were preserved in the National Park Service Organic Act (1916):

“To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life 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.”

National parks began to be designated in the second half of the 19th century, and national monuments in the early part of the 20th century. Each park or monument was managed individually or, alternately in some cases, by the United States Army, each with varying degrees of success. Beginning in 1911, Senator Read Smoot of Utah and Representative John E. Raker of California had submitted bills to establish the National Park Service to oversee the management of all these holdings. The bills were opposed by the director of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, and his supporters. The Forest Service believed that a National Park Service would be a threat to continued Forest Service control of public lands that had been set aside for the timber trade. Beginning in 1910 the American Civic Association with the support of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Sierra Club had led the call for a federal service to manage the parks. The noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was also a booster of a single national organization to manage the National Parks.

Successful and influential industrialist Stephen Mather was challenged by Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane to lobby for legislation creating a bureau to oversee the National Parks. Mather accepted pro bono (accepting a perfunctory salary of $1) and with assistance primarily by a young lawyer named Horace Albright a campaign was begun. By 1915, regular meetings were occurring in Washington at the home of Congressman William Kent of California. The group’s regulars were Congressman Kent, J. Horace McFarland of the American Civic Association, and the few Washington staff members of the Department of the Interior responsible the National Parks.


http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks  PBS brings you a preview of the newest Ken Burns documentary series, THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICAS BEST IDEA. The 12-hour, six-part documentary series, directed by Burns and co-produced with his longtime colleague, Dayton Duncan.  Premiered on Sunday, September 27th, 2009 (check local listings) Buy the DVD: http://www.shoppbs.org/entry.point?entry=3473255&source=PBSCS_YOUTUBE_NAP…