August 25, 2021 marks the 105th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). In a 1916 act signed by President Woodrow Wilson, the federal government established the fundamental mission, philosophy and policies of a group within the U.S. Department of Interior responsible for overseeing the nation’s national parks and monuments.
However, NPS’ history actually began 44 years prior — with the Yellowstone National Park Act in 1872, which placed a portion of land then in Wyoming and Montana (totalling more than 2 million acres) under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. After Wilson created the NPS, Franklin Roosevelt was the next president to make a major change, transferring the War Department’s parks and monuments and all the national monuments held by the Forest Service to the National Park Service in 1933.
Other pieces of legislation have developed the NPS into its modern-day state, such as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Volunteers in the Parks Act of 1969 and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.
Today, the NPS employs around 20,000 people across all of its offices and parks, with over 279,000 annual volunteers. The system includes 423 areas covering more than 85 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In 2019, over 327 million people visited the national parks, enjoying the awe-inspiring features of these natural sites.
Robert F. Smith’s Support for Preserving America’s National Parks
As a philanthropist and lover of the outdoors, Robert F. Smith has supported NPS and other efforts to expand and invest in the country’s national resources.
In February 2019, Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, made a significant donation to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of the National Parks Service. Through this grant, the foundation was able to purchase the homes where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised his family with Coretta Scott King. The homes were immediately transferred to the National Park Service and preserved as part of Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia.
However, this is not the only way Smith has used his resources to endow the national parks. In 2007, alongside fellow entrepreneur Matthew Burkett, Smith created Lincoln Hills Cares (LHC) in his birthplace of Colorado. Lincoln Hills Cares is a charitable organization that strives to increase equity in access to outdoor resources and opportunities for youth, families and communities that may experience barriers to green spaces. Through ongoing preservation practices and dynamic programs, LHC empowers youth who may not otherwise be able to explore America’s great outdoors.
Read here to learn fun facts about America’s national parks, the preservation of Dr. King’s homes and Lincoln Hills Cares.