- This article is about national parks. For the articles about the towns named National Park, see National Park, New Jersey and National Park, New Zealand.
A national park is a reserve of land, usually owned by a national government, that is protected from most human development and pollution.
The idea of a national park was first articulated in the early 19th century. In 1810 the English poet William Wordsworth described the Lake District as a "sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy". The painter George Catlin, in his travels though the American West, became concerned about the future of the Native Americans he met and the natural wonders he saw. In 1832 he wrote that they might be preserved:
- [B]y some great protecting policy of government ... in a magnificent park ... A nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!
The first effort by any government to set aside such protective lands was in the United States, when President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress on June 30, 1864, ceding the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (the heart of which would become the world-famous Yosemite National Park) to the state of California:
- [T]he said State shall accept this grant upon the express conditions that the premises shall he held for public use, resort, and recreation; shall be inalienable for all time.
However, the vision of the National Park was not yet complete in Yosemite, and required the efforts of John Muir to bring it to fruition. Yosemite would not legally become a national park until October 1, 1890.
In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the world's first truly national park. Following the idea established in Yellowstone there soon followed other parks in many other nations. In Australia, the Royal National Park was established just south of Sydney in 1879. In Canada, Banff National Park (then known as Rocky Mountain National Park) became its first national park in 1887. New Zealand had its first national park in 1887. In Europe the first national park was established in 1910 in Sweden. Particularly after World War II national parks were founded all over the world.
National parks are usually located in places which have been largely undeveloped, and often feature areas with exceptional native animals, plants and ecosystems (particularly endangered examples of such), biodiversity, or unusual geological features. Occasionally, national parks are declared in developed areas with the goal of returning the area to resemble its original state as closely as possible.
In some countries, such as England and Wales, areas designated as a national park are not wilderness, nor owned by the government, and can include substantial settlements and land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape.
Most national parks have a dual role in offering a refuge for wildlife and as popular tourist areas. Managing the potential for conflict between these two roles can become problematic, particularly as tourists often generate revenue for the parks which, in turn, are spent on conservation projects. Parks also serve as reserves for substantial natural resources, such as timber, minerals and other valuable commodities. The management of the demand for extraction of these resources, against the damage this might cause, is often a very important challenge in national park management. National parks have been subject to illegal logging and other exploitation, sometimes because of political corruption. This threatens the integrity of many valuable habitats.
Some countries also designate sites of special cultural, scientific or historical importance as national parks, or as special entities within their national park systems. Other countries use a different scheme for historical site preservation. Some of these sites are awarded the title World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
In many countries, local governmental bodies may be responsible for the maintenance of park systems. Some of these are even called national parks.
- UNESCO - Man and the Biosphere Programme (Biosphere Reserves) (http://www.unesco.org/mab/)
- World Heritage Sites (http://whc.unesco.org/nwhc/pages/home/pages/homepage.htm)
- UN Protected Places database (http://www.wcmc.org.uk/data/database/un_combo.html)
- EUROPARC federation - Europe's protected areas (http://www.europarc.org/)
- National Parks Administration of the Secretariat for Natural Resources and Human Environment (Spanish only) (http://www.medioambiente.gov.ar/home.htm)
- Parks Victoria (http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/index_hm.html)
- New South Wales (http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/)
- Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management (http://www.calm.wa.gov.au/national_parks/)
- Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and the Legal Amazon - Portuguese only (http://www.mma.gov.br/)
- Parks Canada (http://www.pc.gc.ca/index_E.asp)
- Portal System of the Natural National Parks of Colombia (official) (http://www.parquesnacionales.gov.co/Sistemas/English/Interfaces/ecoPresentacion.asp)
- National Parks Denmark Pilot Phase (Danish Ministry of the Enviornment) (http://www.sns.dk/nationalparker/english.htm)
- Ethiopian National Parks - Africanet report (unofficial) (http://www.africanet.com/africanet/country/ethiopia/parks.htm)
- Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (http://virtual.finland.fi/finfo/english/luonteng.html)
- Parcs Nationaux de France (French only) (http://www.parcsnationaux-fr.com)
- Map/list of German National Parks (unofficial) (http://www.germany-tourism.de/e/6369.html)
- Government portal/National parks (http://www.magyarorszag.hu/angol/orszaginfo/orszag/nemzetipark/nemzeti_parkok_a.html)
- National Parks in Italy (the Italian Park Portal - official?) (http://www.parks.it/indice/NatParks.html)
- Ministry of Tourism, Government of India (http://www.tourisminindia.com/themes/lureofjungle.htm)
- Ministry of Culture and Tourism (http://www.indonesiatourism.go.id/governmental.html?id_menu=0701010000)
- List of national parks (unofficial) (http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/4466/)
- Kenya National Parks and Reserves (Kenya Wildlife Service) (http://www.kenya-wildlife-service.org/parks.htm)
- A list of national parks - Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife (http://www.tourismmalawi.com/Tourist%20Places/Southern%20Central%20Region/tpscpkrs.html)
- The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (http://www.semarnat.gob.mx/dgeia/web_ingles/index.shtml)
- National System of Natural Protected Areas (Sinap) - unofficial (http://www.planeta.com/ecotravel/mexico/mexparks.html)
- A list of national parks in Nepal (unofficial) (http://www.geocities.com/dineshgajurel/park.htm)
- New Zealand
- New Zealand Department of Conservation (http://doc.govt.nz/explore/001%7enational-parks/index.asp)
- Norwegian Ministry of the Enviornment (http://www.norway.org/policy/environment/national/nationalparks.htm)
- People's Republic of China
- Ministry of Land and Resource (http://www.mlr.gov.cn/english/english.htm)
- Ministry of Water Resources (http://www.mwr.gov.cn/english1/index.asp)
- A list of National Forest Parks (unofficial) (http://www.linktrip.com/forestparks/)
- The Board of Polish National Parks (http://www.mos.gov.pl/kzpn/ind_gb.htm)
- Linked from the official site of the Government of Portugal - Portuguese only (http://www.rt-serradaestrela.pt/)
- Russian Federation
- Centre for Russian Nature Conservation (Ministry of Natural Resources?) (http://www.wild-russia.org/)
- A semi-official description of Slovak national parks (http://www.travelguide.sk/default.asp?prg=article&id=8&lang=eng)
- A set of official maps of national parks and other protected areas (in Slovak) (http://atlas.sazp.sk:7777/chu/)
- South Africa
- South African National Parks (SANParks) (http://www.parks-sa.co.za/)
- National Parks of Spain (unofficial) (http://www.spaintour.com/parks.htm)
- Map/list of national parks - Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.internat.naturvardsverket.se/index.php3?main=/documents/nature/engpark/enpstart.htm)
- Uganda Wildlife Authority (http://www.uwa.or.ug/parks.html)
- United Kingdom
- Association of National Park Authorities (Gov) (http://www.anpa.gov.uk/)
- Council for National Parks in England and Wales (Charity) (http://www.cnp.org.uk/)
- State Department for Tourism of Ukraine (no list) (http://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/en/publish/article?art_id=192583&cat_id=73035)
- United States
- US National Parks Service - Main (http://www.nps.gov/)
- US National Parks Service - Data (http://www.nps.gov/pub_aff/index.htm)
- US National Parks Service - Digital maps (http://data2.itc.nps.gov/parksearch/geosearch.cfm)
- National parks in Venezuela (Ministry of Tourism?) (http://www.think-venezuela.net/english/w_nationalparks.htm)