Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2005


United States History


The idea of national parks has long conjured particular images for people, from the vast, majestic landscapes of Yellowstone, to the Park Service or possibly even preservation. With the overwhelming mission statement of the 21st century National Park Service, very few people know or even understand the troubled history behind the parks. The following analysis focuses on Yosemite and Yellowstone National Park, not only because of their popularity, but because they remain the oldest, largest, and most well known establishments. The current battle between use and preservation of the parks remains embedded in the histories of the two major parks, both which serve as outstanding examples of policy failure driven by aesthetic and utilitarian use. Created years before America was prepared to manage with the parks, changing attitudes and perceptions regarding their purpose and use compromised the preservation of pristine natural conditions, while the policies designed to protect the parks repeatedly failed. Left essentially undefined, preservation was an unclear secondary objective to the use and development of the parks.


This Thesis in History won the 2005 Research Bibliography Award given by Clemens and Alcuin Libraries.

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Author's statement of research process