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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

A Quintessential American Institution

April 23, 2016

A Quintessential American Institution
Remarks by Congressman Tom McClintock
Yosemite National Park
April 23, 2016

    What a pleasure it is today to be here at Yosemite – the first park to be set aside for public use and the inspiration for our National Parks – to celebrate the centennial year of the National Parks System.

    The centennial pays tribute to the uniquely American notion that our most beautiful and historic lands should be set aside for the use and enjoyment of the people of the United States. In the words of the Organic Act of 1916, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same.”  

    Our National Parks are a quintessential American institution.   The kings of England set aside vast tracts of land as their exclusive preserves, which only a select few with their blessing could enjoy.  The National Parks are the very opposite of that.  In America, we have set aside the most beautiful land in the nation entirely of, by and for the people.

    That’s what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he signed the act first setting aside what would become the cornerstone of our National Park System – Yosemite.   

    He did this – quote -- “upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation (and) shall be inalienable for all time.”

    The visionaries who inspired and established the National Park Service wanted people to come to the parks to enjoy themselves, knowing that they would go away with fond memories, happy experiences, resolved to return again and again. 

    “We saw another party of tourists today.” John Muir wrote in his diary one day in Yosemite Valley.  “Somehow most of these travelers seem to care but little for the glorious objects around them, though enough to spend time and money and endure long rides to see the famous Valley.  And when they are fairly within the mighty walls of the temple and hear the psalms of the falls, they will forget themselves and become devout.  Blessed indeed would be every pilgrim in these holy mountains…The valley is full of people, but they do not annoy me.”

    Our national parks should be open to the public for all recreational pursuits —hiking, camping biking, lodging, hunting, fishing, snow-mobiling, horseback riding, sight-seeing, skiing, rafting, skating, off-roading, RVing, – these are the priceless memories our parks are there to create for succeeding generations of Americans.  

    Two years after Muir’s death, the National Park Service was created and Yosemite was entrusted to its care.  I want to recognize the National Park Rangers who have ever since welcomed and encouraged succeeding generations of Americans who come to their public lands.   

    This centennial year is particularly important to the communities that surround our parks, whose economies depend upon the tourism they generate and rely on the federal government to be a good neighbor in preserving, maintaining and managing these lands.   

    All these communities and the local businesses that support them are vital elements of the never-ending campaign to promote the park, and they are the most passionate advocates for preserving the Yosemite experience. 

    A century from now, another assemblage will gather here to celebrate the National Park Service’s bi-centennial.  Much in the world will have changed by then, but the tumbling rivers, soaring trees and granite walls will look as they do today.  A new generation that has reveled and recreated in its beauty will gather here then to renew the promise of “public use, resort and recreation…inalienable…for all time.” 

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