tells the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved for everyone. The series traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years.
North Carolina, with a very strong state park system, boasts only the Great Smokies National Park as part of this system; amazingly, the Great Smokies is the most heavily visited national park. We share the park with Tennessee. The Great Smokies Park is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. This PBS series, which I have eagerly anticipated and urge you to watch, will focus initially on Yosemite, first sighted by white men in 1851 and worshiped by John Muir and many others. Yosemite was given federal protection by Abraham Lincoln in 1864.
This is the first instance of park land being set aside specifically for preservation and public use by action of the U.S. federal government, and set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first national park. Wikipedia
As we follow this series on the blog, I hope to find the time to review a relevant and fascinating book: Humboldt’s Current and the Roots of American Environmentalism. The evolution of the national parks is an amazing story of very rich people acting not as royalty or capitalists but as Americans. I look forward to seeing Ken Burn’s take on this, and sharing more about Aaron Sach’s complex book, which traces the influence of Humboldt, a Prussian scientist who was essentially America’s first professional naturalist, on American explorer naturalists such as Muir.