Be sure to say happy birthday to your favorite national park, for 136 years ago, on March 1, 1872, the very first national park in the world was born. Yellowstone National Park was created on this day in green history when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill that created the park.
The U.S. is well known for producing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, two documents that so famously incorporate the ideals of democracy. These documents have been used as models for many other nations. Perhaps less famously, the U.S. incorporated the ideals of “landscape democracy” when lawmakers created the first national park. In its fullest extent, “landscape democracy” is the concept that the most scenic parts of the landscape belong to all citizens, and that all citizens have the duty to protect these landscapes. Like the idea of democracy, the idea of the national park has also been copied by many nations. Wallace Stegner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, wrote that “national parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
But how did the concept of the national park come into being? Well, that is a more complicated question than you may think, and one that involves some surprising players.