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Protecting Systems [1960s-1970s]

1960s - 1970s:
Alley Mill at Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Ozark National Scenic Riverways:

In 1961, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall visited the Ozarks in Missouri and floated down the Current River with local conservationists and officials from the National Park Service. The following year, a group of U.S. senators did the same thing, and President John F. Kennedy also backed the plan for preserving the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. The bill to preserve the rivers was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and the park was officially designated in 1972.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways introduced a new type of park unit (National Scenic Riverways) and marked the first time a national park had been created to protect a river system. The effort to create this park led to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which was signed by President Johnson on October 2, 1968. The act declared that "certain selected rivers of the Nation which, 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." The act identified many rivers or sections of rivers that would become part of the park system, including the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, which was also created in 1968.

Photo: Alley Mill at Ozark National Scenic Riverways

A hiker on the Appalachian Trail, 1970s
The National Trails System Act:

Similar to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the National Trails System Act, also passed in 1968, introduced new types of units to the park system. Three categories of trails were created as part of the new national trail system: national scenic trails, national recreational trails, and national historic trails (the latter was added to the act in 1978). The act created the 2,100-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which crosses 14 states from Maine to Georgia.

Photo: A hiker on the Appalachian Trail, 1970s

Tourists at Mount Rushmore, 1971
All created equal:

As it expanded the size of the NPS in the 1970s, Congress emphasized the equal standing of each site and the importance of recognizing one national park system. In 1970, the General Authorities Act was passed. This piece of legislation stated that the various areas managed by the NPS, including parkways, recreation areas, and national seashores, were all an equal part of the park system. The NPS's role in managing these areas was further clarified in the Redwood National Park Expansion Act of 1978, which stated that the NPS cannot allow activities that violate a park's enabling legislation, which is the law that created the park and outlined its purpose. Both of these acts amended the 1916 Organic Act and clarified the intent of Congress.

Meanwhile, the NPS struggled with how to manage such a diverse range of park types, initiating a short-lived experiment with separate "management principles" for natural, historical, and recreational units.

Sparked by a heightened interest in environmental protection and the approaching American Bicentennial, the NPS expanded considerably during this era, particularly under Director George Hartzog.

Photo: Tourists at Mount Rushmore, 1971

President Gerald R. Ford
Culture and the political climate:

On December 7, 1973, Gerald Ford became Vice President of the United States following confirmation votes in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Vice Presidency had been vacant since October 10, 1973 when Spiro Agnew resigned after he pleaded no contest to a charge of income tax evasion. It was the first time that a Vice President had been selected following the 25th Amendment to the Constitution that provides for presidential succession. Ford's ascension to the Vice Presidency was important as President Richard Nixon was believed by many at the time to be in danger of not fulfilling his term. These beliefs were verified when Nixon resigned from office on August 8, 1974. With his resignation, Vice President Ford became the only President to have never won an election for the position of President or Vice President.

Photo: President Gerald R. Ford


Learn More:

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To coordinate management of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, an interagency council was formed among the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995.