National Park Service

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National Park Service
National Park Service logo
Established: April 5, 1916
Director: Fran P. Mainella
Budget: $1.6 billion (2004)
Employees: 20,000 (2004)

The National Park Service (NPS) is the United States federal agency that manages all National Parks, many National Monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. It was created on August 25, 1916 by an act of Congress in order to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." It is a branch of the United States Department of the Interior, which is in turn an arm of the executive branch. The NPS oversees 388 units, of which 57 are designated national parks. Other units are designated national monuments, historical parks, memorials, historic trails, outdoor recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, lakeshores, seashores, and battlefields. The U.S. Park Police is a law enforcement division of the National Park Service, with jurisdiction in all NPS sites, primarily utilized in urban sites.

The National Park System is a term that describes the physical collection of parks and sites managed by the National Park Service. The system encompasses approximately 83.6 million acres (338,000 km²), of which more than 4.3 million acres (17,000 km²) remain in private ownership. The largest park is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. At 13,200,000 acres (53,000 km²) it is over 16 percent of the entire system. The smallest unit in the system is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, Pennsylvania, at 0.02 of an acre (80 m²).

In addition to "units" that the National Park Service either owns or administers, it also provides technical and financial assistance to several "affiliated areas" authorized by Congress. The largest affiliated area is New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve at 1,164,025 acres (4711 km²). The smallest is Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at 0.00 acres.

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