The most famous, most significant, and first National Park in America, Yellowstone was never meant to be. The U.S. Government sent a team of explorers, geologists, and engineers to ascertain the feasibility of building railroad tracks through Montana, Colorado, and Idaho. The goal of these men was not to preserve the natural characteristics of the region but to cut through it to ease the railroad connection from East to West. It did not work out as planned, but the National Park System was born.
The first organized exploration of the territory was by a team of Army Civil Engineers in 1860. The venture was cut short by Mother Nature and the winter snow cover. The Civil War prevented any future attempts at surveying the area. Ferdinand V. Hayden, head of the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, led the next scientific expedition in 1871, simultaneous with a survey by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
What Hayden and his men saw and experienced during the trip led them to convince President Ulysses S. Grant to rethink the railroad construction. Their mission was to find a way to destroy the land in the name of progress. Their experience told them they needed to preserve the nearly two million acres of natural beauty and wildlife. They were overwhelmed by the scope of the land and the natural interaction of the various species that call this area home. Through journals, letters, photographs, and drawings, they told their story to President Grant.
Apparently, these men sold their story well as any Railroad plans for this region were scrapped. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law. The world’s first national park was born. This was just the beginning, as in the 150 years since the birth of Yellowstone, 423 parks have been designated, and added to the National Park network. The National Park Service manages over 80 million acres in all 50 states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa.
There are various types of National Parks. National battlefields, Military Parks, Historical Parks and sites, National Monuments, and Memorials are some classifications. These areas must be placed into the National Park Authority so they can forever be protected from encroachment and their natural resources and wildlife can be maintained and prosper. I believe the National Park Service is one of the best uses of a government authority.
The popularity of television series like Yellowstone and 1883 shows a thirst for the Midwest’s beauty, toughness, and nature. We still have a connection to our country when it was still forming. That is true Americana. It is not Times Square or the sidewalk dwellers of San Francisco. The pioneers who challenged the elements and natural predators of the midlands are still the heroes and backbone of this country. There is no Woke in Montana in the middle of winter. Just a will to survive, which true Patriots have shared for over two centuries.