About the Park Service

The U.S. National Park Service oversees and manages 390 sites of exceptional natural, historical, or recreational significance

While such famous national parks as Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite and Grand Canyon are the “crown jewels” of the National Park Service (NPS), this prominent bureau within the Department of the Interior manages and preserves many other national areas and sites. These other locations, which are eligible for the 2010-2021 America the Beautiful Quarters™ program, bear such official designations as National Historic Site, National Monument, National Recreation Area, National Battlefield, National Seashore, and National Preserve. (“America the Beautiful Quarters” is a trademark of the U.S. Mint.)

The National Park Service was established in 1916 to oversee and protect 35 national parks, monuments, and reservations then managed by the Department of the Interior. NPS was charged with conserving beauty, scenery and wildlife in designated locations, and to provide for the public enjoyment of these areas. In 1933, the park service was given responsibility for an additional 56 national monuments and military sites. This expanded the role of NPS to include places of natural, historic, recreational, and cultural significance in all regions of the country.

The National Park System now manages more than 84 million acres in 390 areas and sites in 49 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These areas are deemed to have such national importance as to justify federal recognition and protection. Additions to the National Park System are generally made through acts of Congress, and national parks can only be created by Congressional acts. However, the president has the authority to proclaim national monuments currently on lands already under federal jurisdiction.

The National Park Service is comprised of seven regions, each overseen by a regional director. Each “park unit” within a region is managed by a park superintendent who reports to the regional director. The superintendents are responsible for all park operations, as well as for resource management and protection, facility management, and visitor services.

The American system of national parks and sites was the first of its kind in the world, and has been a model for many other countries as they established their own protected areas and sites. The National Park Service regularly consults with these nations, as well as with communities throughout America seeking to preserve and enhance local sites of natural or historic interest.