The Topic:
Parks and Public Lands

Easier - Parks are often land areas set apart by the government to be kept in their natural state. They can contain trees, lakes, and beautiful land forms. Wild animals and birds are protected within national parks. Parks can also be an area of public land that is used for amusement, enjoyment, and recreation.
Harder - Parks are sections of land that are usually reserved for public use. Many parks are used for recreation and to allow visitors to relax, explore, and enjoy their natural environment. Some are equipped for specific athletic or recreational activities. Parks vary in size from small neighborhood units to giant reserves that contain vast wilderness areas. Parks also vary in their types, from urban and local parks to state and provincial or national government parks. A few parks are privately owned and administered. Parks also vary in their mission and purpose and their activities. Some parks preserve spectacular mountains and/or ancient forests, protect unusual wildlife, or preserve a historic site. Some parks contain geysers, glaciers, or interesting rock formations. Governments throughout the world administer park systems. The United States has over 50 national parks, hundreds of national monument and historic sites, plus more than 5,000 state parks. Canada's national park system has more land than any other country in the world, and has about 1,200 provincial parks plus 35 national parks.
The ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia are believed to have created the first parks during the 2300's B.C. These early parks featured hunting areas or elaborate gardens and were developed by wealthy people for their private use. The first public parks were probably built in ancient Greece. By late in the thirteenth century, small public parks were common in many cities throughout Europe. In 1634, colonial America's first public park was established in Boston, the Boston Common. New York's Central Park was began in 1858. California created the first two state parks in the United States in 1864. In 1872, Congress passed a bill creating Yellowstone National Park, making it the first national park in the world. Illinois created the first state park system in 1917.
Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 from Library of Congress
This collection documents the historical formation and cultural foundations of the movement to conserve and protect America's natural heritage, through books, pamphlets, government documents, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and motion picture footage.
Related Collection from Library of Congress:
Mapping the National Parks
Related Websites:
2) Evolution of the Conservation Movement in the United States Before the Creation of the National Park Service
3) Great American Conservationists from University of California Center for Forestry
4) History of the Conservation Movement by C.R. Van Hise (c1910)
5) Thumbnail History of Environmentalism by M.D. Swords from Western Michigan University
John Muir Exhibit from The Sierra Club
This site features the life and legacy of John Muir: naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club who is often called the "father of our National Parks".
Not-To-Be-Missed Sections:
2) Our National Parks by John Muir
3) Writings of John Muir
Related Websites:
4) Earthkeeper Hero: John Muir by H. W. Wood, Jr.
5) John Muir Global Network
6) John Muir National Historic Site
7) John Muir's Yosemite from The Atlantic
National Park Service History
This comprehensive website provides an American history textbook that educates us about the people, events, buildings, objects, landscapes, and artifacts of the American past and about the aspirations and actions that produced the 388 park areas administered by the National Park Service.
Not-To-Be-Missed Section:
2) America's National Park System: The Critical Documents
Related Websites:
3) Cultural Resource Management (magazine) from National Park Service
4) History of the National Park Service
5) Links to the Past: History of the National Park Service
6) National Park Service: A History
7) National Parks: A Brief History
8) Recreation Visits: Decade Files in PDF Format
9) Recreational Visits by Decade (table format)
Park Net from the National Park Service
Here is the guide to guide to all of the national parks in the United States.
Related Websites:
2) American Park Network (U.S. National Parks)
3) National Parks Guide from Outside Online
4) Parks, Preserves and Public Lands from GORP
5) Park Search from L.L. Bean
6) U.S. National Park Locator from
7) U.S. National Parks,3654,0,00.html
8) U.S. National Parks
9) Visit the Parks: National Park Guide from the National Park Service
After visiting several of the websites, complete one or more of the following activities.
Take A Parks Quiz. Test your knowledge of nature, history, and geography by taking a quiz on National and State Parks. Get started with National and State Park Trivia (Quiz 1 of 4 at You also might want to try the So You Want to Be a Parkologist? ( online trivia game.
Complete A Parks WebQuest. Follow or adapt the procedures found at one of the following webQuest sites:
1) Advertising Agent for the U.S. National Parks Department (Grade 5) by S. Kerper
2) Discovering United States Parks
3) Exploring Our National Parks (Grade 4) by C. Burke
4) Grandpa's Mountain WebQuest or Whose Mountain Is It Anyway? (Grades 5-6) by T. Frazier, K. Waters, & P. White
5) It's No Day at the Park (Grade 9-10) by K. Thomas
6) Local Student Chased Up A Tree!!!
7) National Park WebQuest by L. Lineweaver
Create A Park Brochure. Select a park near you - - preferably one without a brochure. Remember, parks come in all sizes and several different types. Examine the park, research its history. Identify its main features. Develop a map. Then design and produce an original brochure for your park.
Debate The Privatization Of Park Jobs. One of the hottest issues currently impacting parks and park employees is continued privatization of park jobs. After reading articles like the following, debate the issues surrounding this topic. Take a stand.
1) Officials: Users Might Lose in Parks Privatization Plan
2) Privatization Issues from National Center for Policy Analysis
3) Privatization of National Park Service Jobs
4) Privatization of Park Jobs under Fire by Christopher Smith from The Salt Lake Tribune
5) Reid Tries to Stop Privatization of Park Jobs by S. Tetreault
6) Versatile Park Staff Fret about Future
What Should be Done about the National Parks? Our nations beautiful national parks are facing some ugly issues. The enormous number of visitors and the constant threat of development present the national parks with a variety of problems. Funding for their operation and needed renovations are bringing economic issues to the forefront. What solution would best serve the country? You decide and explain your solution(s). Find some ideas at (1) National Parks: Only You Can Prevent the Coming Crisis ( and National Park Trust's (2) Saving the Legacy of the National System of Parks ( This activity is not limited to the United States as alluded to in the book review (3) Parks at Risk ( that is about Canada's national parks.
Read About the History of U.S. National Parks. You can read a review of an award-winning book, "Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History" by R.W. Sellars ( See if your library has a copy or can order it for you through their Interlibrary Loan Program.
Create A Concept Map for Parks and Other Public Lands. How are the National Park Service and the Department of Agriculture both in charge of different national parks? Compare and contrast their missions and purposes. What are the relationships between national parks, state parks, urban parks, national refuges, national grasslands, national rivers, national wetlands, national wilderness areas, and national forests? Consider these relationships and more that you find. Where do the non-governmental organizations and conservation groups fit into the overall schema? Develop a concept map (Use a graphic organizer like Inspiration - - free trial version available) that shows the relationships between and among these organizations and entities. What are the concepts that underpin these operations. Compare and contrast. Expand your map to encompass the big picture for conservation, preservation, protection, recreation, etc.
More Websites
America's National Trails System from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
National recreation trails are existing trails recognized by the Federal Government as contributing to the National Trails System. They vary in length, terrain, difficulty, and accessibility. These trails are managed by public and private agencies at the local, state, and national levels and include nature trails, river routes, and historic tours.
Related Websites:
2) National Trails System form National Park Service
3) National Trails System by K.A Cordes from DesertUSA
Brief History of the Civilian Conservation Corps
At the height of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt proposed to recruit thousands of unemployed young men, enroll them in a peacetime army, and send them into battle against destruction and erosion of our natural resources.
Related Websites:
2) Civilian Conservation Corps
3) Civilian Conservation Corps in North Georgia by R. Golden
4) James F. Justin Civilian Conservation Corps
5) With the Civilian Conservation Corps
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the U.S. Department of the Interior
The BLM) agency administers 261 million acres of America's public lands.
Not-To-Be-Missed Section:
2) National Landscape Conservation System
Explore the Parks from The Parks Company
This is a web starting point for National Park news, information, history, insights, travel guides, maps, weather, photos and more.
Find National Forests and Grasslands from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
Locate and learn about the national forests and grasslands administered by the USDA.
Related Websites:
2) National Grasslands from USDA Forest Service
Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Established in 1905, the Forest Service is an USDA agency that manages public lands in national forests and grasslands.
Frederick Law Olmsted
Learn about the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted, founder of American landscape architecture.
Related Websites:
2) Frederick Law Olmsted
3) Frederick Law Olmsted
4) Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site from National Park Service
5) Park History - Olmsted Parks from Seattle Parks and Recreation
Glimpses of Our National Monuments
In addition to the national parks, the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior has under its jurisdiction a second class of reservations called national monuments.
Related Website:
2) Public Lands Defense: National Monuments Need Your Help
History of Central Park by E. Blackmar and R. Rosenzweig
Learn about the creation of Central Park, the first landscaped public park in the United States.
Continued Article:
2) History . . . .
Related Website:
3) Central Park Reshaped a City's Mindset by H. Hewett from The Christian Science Monitor
History of the National Wildlife Refuge System from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
If you travel much in the wilder sections of our country, sooner or later you are likely to meet the sign of the flying goose-the emblem of the National Wildlife Refuges. Learn the history of their development.
Related Webpage:
2) Refuge System: A Century of Wildlife Conservation from Learners Online Inc.
History of Public Lands in Alaska
Presidential proclamations and Acts of Congress have created a body of federal public lands in Alaska cherished by all Americans.
Leave No Trace
This is the website of a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and inspiring responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships.
Mexican Biosphere Reserves & National Parks from Mexico OnLine
This site provides a brief listing of national parks and reserves listed by state.
Related Website:
2) Outdoor Mexico - National Parks & Protected Public Lands from GORP
National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, this organization has been working to safeguard the scenic beauty, wildlife, and historical and cultural treasures of the largest and most diverse park system in the world.
Related Websites:
2) Across the Nation: Americans for National Parks
3) Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)
4) National Park Trust (NPT)
5) Parks, Forests, & Wildlands from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
6) Wild Wilderness Homepage
National Parks Worldwide
This links-site connects you to national parks and related information and resources around the world.
National Wild and Scenic Rivers System
In October of 1968, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act declared that certain selected rivers with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Related Website:
2) Wild and Scenic Rivers from American Rivers
National Wilderness Preservation System
Here you find information about the 662 units that make up the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Related Websites:
2) Montana Wilderness Association
3) NPS Wilderness
4) Wilderness Information Network
NatureNet from the National Park Service
Here you find information on the parks' natural resources.
Related Website:
2) Nature Watch from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales, Australia
NPSW is the main government conservation agency in New South Wales.
Public Lands Information Center
Here is a a single source of information about recreation and land use on all public lands in a state, regardless of managing agency.
Parks Canada
Learn about the national parks of our North American neighbor.
Related Websites:
2) Canadian National Parks (A-K) from
3) Canadian National Parks (L-Y) from
4) Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)
5) Canadian Public Parks Movement: The Hamilton Experience from Hamilton Public Library
6) Great Canadian Parks
Rangers on the Web
This website aims at providing resources and information for rangers or naturalists in the field.
Related Websites:
2) Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR)
3) Diary of a Park Ranger
4) Park Law Enforcement Association
5) Park Rangers from the National Park Service
6) United States Park Ranger Lodge
Smokey Bear
Smokey Bear has been working for over 50 years to remind Americans of the importance of outdoor fire safety and wildfire prevention.
More Information About Smokey:
2) An Agency Icon at 50 by J. Carrier from High Country News (Warning: Somewhat cynical view)
3) Smokey Bear
4) Smokey Bear from Canadian Forestry Association
5) Smokey Bear Celebrates 50 Years
6) Smokey Bear - The First Fifty Years
State Parks from
This links-site connects you to the official agencies that manage state parks and other natural resources in all 50 states and DC.
Related Website from
2) Best of the Best State Parks
3) "Best of the Best" Winter State Parks
World Heritage from UNESCO
This organization works to protect natural and cultural properties of outstanding universal value against the threat of damage in a rapidly developing world. Here you can find a country-by-country listing of World Heritage sites.
Related Websites:
2) World Heritage Sites in Canada
3) World Heritage Sites in Mexico
4) World Heritage Sites in the United States
Other Conservation Groups
Land Trust Alliance
As the national leader of the private land conservation movement, LTA promotes voluntary land conservation across the country, provides resources, leadership, and training to the nation's 1,200-plus nonprofit, grassroots land trusts and helps them to protect important open spaces.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Established by Congress in 1984, this private, nonprofit organization is dedicated to the conservation of fish, wildlife, and plants, and the habitat on which they depend. Their goals are to promote healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants by generating new commerce for conservation.
National Wildlife Federation
This organization claims to be the nation's largest member-supported conservation group, uniting individuals, organizations, businesses and government to protect wildlife, wild places, and the environment.
Related Website:
2) Canadian Wildlife Federation
Nature Conservancy
The mission of this organization is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. Since 1951, they have been working to protect more than 116 million acres around the world.
Related Websites:
2) How The Nature Conservancy Works from Howstuffworks
3) Nature Conservancy of Canada
Sierra Club
The Club is America's oldest, largest and an influential grassroots environmental organization. Their mission statement is to: (a) explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth, (b) practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources, (c) educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment, and (d) use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.
Not-To-Be-Missed Section:
2) Wildlands from the Sierra Club
Wilderness Society
The Wilderness Society is a national conservation organization devoted primarily to the protection and management of the lands that belong to all Americans --our nation’s parks, wildlife refuges, forests, deserts and seashores.
Related Website:
2) Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Known worldwide by its panda logo, WWF is dedicated to protecting the world's wildlife and wildlands.
State Parks of the United States
Websites For Teachers
Discovering National Parks (Grades 6-8) from ArtsEdge . . .
Why do people disagree about how to use natural resources? How and why does art have the power to influence governmental policy and public opinion? Students will explore these themes in this lesson.
National Parks (Grades 4-6)
This 3-part unit contains (1) Creating a National Park Brochure, (2) Map a trip to a National Park, and (3) Saving a National Park.
Plan A Park (Grades 5-8) from PBS Kids
This activity uses the vision, planning, and building of New York City's Central Park in the mid-19th century as a jumping-off point for students to think about designing and, perhaps, creating their own public park or space.
State Park Investigations (Grades 3-8)
Students will find out how many national parks are in their state and figure out how much of the area of the state is composed of national parks.
Teaching with Historic Places
Created by National Park Service interpreters, preservation professionals, and educators, these lessons use historic sites to explore American history.
What Is A National Park
Students work in small groups to explore specific national parks. Together they learn about the mission of the National Park Service and discover how each individual park fits into the larger system.
Yours, Mine, or Everyone’s? A Study in Values (Grades 7-10)
Use this simulation to encourage rational discussion of issues related to National Parks.
landscape architecture
National Park
provincial park
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
state park
public land
municipal park
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
U.S. Dept. of the Interior
public park
U.S. Presidents
natural space
U.S. National Park Service
protected area
outdoor recreation
Theodore Roosevelt
U.S. Geological Survey
wildlife refuge
national treasure
Civilian Conservation Corps
world heritage park
natural resources
land management
park system
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 7/03.