Agency Spotlight—The National Park Service (NPS)

Jun 1, 2017


The National Park Service is an agency of the Department of the Interior. They manage all U.S. national parks and many American National Monuments. They have a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places they manage, while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.


Their mission is to preserve the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration for all generations. “We are committed to promoting a workforce where the viewpoints and talents of every employee are valued, welcomed, and appreciated.


The National Park Service arrowhead became their official emblem in 1951. The components of the arrowhead have special meaning associated with the NPS.

  • The sequoia tree and bison represent vegetation and wildlife
  • The mountains and water represent scenic and recreational values
  • And the arrowhead itself represents the historical and archeological values

The arrowhead is a registered service mark of the agency, protected by trademark laws of the United States.


Congress establishes most units of the NPS, with the President signing the act into law. A potential national park must meet all of the following four standards:

  • An outstanding example of a particular type of resource.
  • Possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting natural or cultural themes of our Nation’s heritage.
  • Offer opportunities for recreation, public use, and enjoyment, or scientific study.
  • Retain a high level of integrity as a true, accurate, and relatively unspoiled example of the resource.

Brief History

The national park idea is credited to artist George Catlin. In 1832, he traveled to the Great Plains of the United States where he became concerned about the destruction of the Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness as eastern settlements spread westward. He even wrote, “by some great protecting policy of government…in a magnificent park…a nations’ park, containing man and beast, in all the wilderness and freshness of their nature’s beauty.”

While his view had no immediate impact, in the east, poets and painters began to echo that idea. Slowly some of those unspoiled areas in the West became better known and the idea of saving and preserving these places became of interest.

The next post in this series will look at a more detailed history of the National Park Service.

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