Parks and Recreation in the United States: The National Park System



Jan. 14, 2009


Issue Brief

Reading time

1 minute


The National Park Service, a bureau within the U.S. Department of the Interior, is responsible for managing 391 sites—including national monuments, national recreation areas, national rivers, national parks, various types of historic sites, and other categories of protected lands—that cover 84 million acres. Some of the sites, such as Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon, are viewed as iconic symbols of America. But the National Park Service also manages a number of small historical sites, military parks, scenic parkways, the National Mall in Washington, DC, and a variety of other protected locations. In this backgrounder, we provide a brief history of the Park Service, show trends in land acreage managed by the bureau and visitation at National Park Service sites over time, show funding trends, and present the challenges and issues facing the Park Service today.


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