National Parks and the West

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Western Governors' Association
Policy Resolution 2016-10

National Parks and the West


  1. The National Park Service (NPS) was created on August 25, 1916. The “Organic Act” states that the fundamental purpose of the NPS “is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objectives 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.”
  2. The NPS System includes Historical Parks or Sites, National Monuments, National Parks, Battlefields or Military Parks, Preserves, Recreation Areas, Seashores, Parkways, Lakeshores, and Reserves. The NPS also helps administer affiliated sites, the National Register of Historic Places, National Heritage Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Historic Landmarks, and National Trails.
  3. NPS System units preserve scenic, historic, cultural, recreational and natural (i.e., wildlife, water, vegetation, etc.) values for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of millions of visitors.
  4. Across the United States, the NPS System covers more than 84 million acres and comprises 409 locations.
  5. The NPS System receives over 273 million visitors annually who support more than 240,000 mostly local jobs and contribute about $27 billion to the U.S. economy. NPS System units function as the backbone of many rural economies throughout the West.
  6. The West has a unique history and special role in the establishment of our Nation’s system of NPS units.
    1. The Nation’s first thirteen recognized national parks are all located in the West and many other “crown jewels” of the NPS System are found in Western States.
    2. Western States and U.S. Flag Islands in the Pacific are home to 201 national parks, with over 110 million visitors annually contributing more than $7.7 billion to the states’ economy through visits to unique and iconic treasures found in our mountains, deserts, and coastlines.
    3. National Parks help to safeguard natural and cultural heritage throughout the West, including 220 National Natural Landmarks, 588 National Historic Landmarks, 62,357 archaeological sites, and 14 World Heritage Sites, and supporting 421 threatened and endangered plant and animal species throughout the United States.
  7. The NPS celebrates its Centennial in 2016 and has launched the “Find Your Park” and “Every Kid in a Park” initiatives to connect people with our National Parks, state parks, local parks, trails, museums, historic sites, and the many ways that the American public can connect with history and culture, enjoy nature, and make new discoveries.


  1. Western Governors understand that not every state, territory, or Flag Island approaches public land ownership and management in the same way. However, Western Governors recognize the role of our system of National Parks, in economic development, development of social values, positive health benefits, and recreational opportunities, which benefit our citizens, the region, nation, and world.
  2. Western Governors join the NPS as it celebrates the 100th birthday of the NPS in 2016 and support the NPS’s Centennial goal to connect with and nurture the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates, including encouraging individuals and families to take advantage of our Nation’s natural wonders and iconic sites as part of the “Find Your Park” and “Every Kid in a Park” initiatives.
  3. Western Governors support efforts to protect the intellectual property of iconic NPS features, venues and landmarks so as to ensure and maintain their economic, cultural and historic values.
  4. Consistent with existing WGA policy (Policy Resolution 2014-12, Federal Agreements with Western States), Western Governors recommend the federal government continue efforts to take action to avoid problems caused by the potential of federal budget impasses and the shutdown of federal lands, particularly NPS units within the states, and major tourist attractions in the West.


  1. The Governors direct WGA staff to work with Congressional committees of jurisdiction, the Executive Branch, and other entities, where appropriate, to achieve the objectives of this resolution and to support the “Find Your Park” and “Every Kid in a Park” initiatives.
  2. Furthermore, the Governors direct WGA staff to consult with the Staff Advisory Council regarding its efforts to realize the objectives of this resolution and to keep the Governors apprised of its progress in this regard.

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