Burien, Washington




Mewsings from Millie

Hello and welcome back to my musings!

Happy birthday to the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) which turns 100 years old this month! In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that created the parks with the purpose "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."

The parks were actually created in reaction to the wiping out of the once great bison herds that roamed the Great Plains. This decimation prompted the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, the nation's first designated wildlife sanctuary. However, poachers paid no heed to the park's boundaries. Even the U.S. Calvary was sent in but the army had no authority to prosecute violators. Finally, Senator John F. Lacy of Iowa had had enough and pushed a bill through congress in 1894 making it a misdemeanor to kill animals in the park, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and two years in jail, and one of the nation's earliest federal laws protecting wildlife was enacted. Some 4,000 bison now roam Yellowstone and in all, some 30,000 bison now graze in public herds across the West.

The number of success stories continued to grow as parks were created to protect our natural wonders. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Mount Olympus National Monument, precursor to Olympic National Park, to protect the shrinking herd of his namesake Roosevelt Elk.  A few years later, Rocky Mountain Elk and pronghorn were reintroduced to South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park. In Hawaii, the native nene goose had dwindled to a population of 30 by the 1950s. It was saved after heroic reintroduction efforts in Hawai'i Volcanoes and Haleakala national parks in the 1960s and 1970s. Today more than 2,000 nene exist on the islands.

More and more, parks are becoming important wildlife laboratories where researchers are learning to protect species on a larger scale. Perhaps the most ambitious research project in the nation is the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory in which scientists and citizen volunteers are attempting to discover all of the estimated 60,000 - 80,000 species thought to live within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the North Carolina - Tennessee border. After 18 years and nearly 20,000 species discovered it has become one of the largest natural-history inventories in the world.

Today the NPS employs more than 20,000 people and oversees 409 parks, as well as historic sites and scenic shorelines.

Even though these sites receive more than a quarter-billion visits each year the NPS is concerned about creating the next generation of advocates for parks and other public lands. The "Find Your Park" campaign targets milennials and "Every Kid in a Park" gives all the nation's fourth-graders and their families a free pass to national parks for a year. To find out more visit the "Find Your Park and "Every Kid in a Park" websites.

There are a variety of free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current military members and citizens with disabilities and on August 25, 26 ,27 and 28 all entrance fees to the national parks will be waived.

So, get out there and enjoy our fabulous national parks and when you do, shout out a tremendous "Thank You!" to the National Park Service and all it does for our country's natural wonders, wildlife and historical places. Oh, and Happy Birthday, too!

Until next time,

Millie, the Muse of Mews