Mission & History

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” — John Muir

The official charitable partner of the National Park Service

A photo of President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir overlooking the falls in Yosemite.

John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt, here visiting Yosemite National Park, were two of the earliest park advocates.

Wikipedia

The National Park Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, enriches America’s national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts. 

Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation is rooted in a legacy that began more than a century ago, when private citizens from all walks of life took action to establish and protect our national parks. Today, the National Park Foundation carries on that tradition as the only national charitable nonprofit whose mission is to directly support the National Park Service.
 

Our National Parks History

The preservation of our most magnificent and meaningful places for the purpose of public appreciation and recreation is a uniquely American idea. The Yosemite Grant was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. And with it, for the first time, the federal government set aside parkland for preservation and public use. This protected landscape includes iconic American features such as Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome Rock, and some of the oldest trees on Earth, the giant Sequoias.

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park, was established to be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” 

Protecting the hallowed ground in Yosemite Valley set the precedent for the creation of all of the national parks. And in 1890, largely in part due to the activism and lobbying of John Muir, the Yosemite Valley came under official federal protection as Yosemite National Park.

An historic map of Yellowstone National Park, dated 1904.

This historic map of Yellowstone is from 1904, prior to its establishment as our first official national park.

By 1916, the Department Interior was managing a large portfolio of protected landscapes across the country—but had no official or unified leadership. Action from journalists, businessmen, and nature conservationists led to the establishment of the National Park Service by Congress.

NPS's mission is to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife 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.”

Our Foundation History

The story of the parks is the story of us — a commitment to protect the places we cherish. The action of ordinary citizens inspired the next step in the protection and enhancement of our national parks: The National Park Foundation.

Through lobbying efforts of visionaries like First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson and philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller, the official charter to establish the NationalPark Foundation was passed by Congress in 1967. As one of the first advocates for the National Park Foundation, Lady Bird Johnson’s commitment to beautifying our country lives on in the actions of conservationists nationwide who work to protect our parks.

A photo of Lady Bird Johnson in her beloved Texas Hill Country

Lady Bird Johnson, an early advocate for the National Park Foundation, in her beloved Texas Hill Country.

Wikipedia

Private citizens previously did not have a clear way to directly support our parks, be it through financial contributions or land donation—making expansion and further protection of our national parks a challenge for the National Park Service to take on alone.

The creation of the National Park Foundation lead to the immediate protection and enhancement of some of our most iconic and historic places. For example, within the first 10 years, we established grants to protect President Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Sagamore, Long Island; made emergency land purchases to save Gettysburg, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Muir Woods; supported a grant in the Rocky Mountain Range; and established a fund to enhance the Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove along the Potomac River.
 

Our Mission Today

As the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, we directly impact what matters most: our precious parks.

We focus on promoting programs and projects that protect precious landscapes and wilderness, historical sites, and places of cultural significance.

We work to keep trails clear through our Active Trails program, partner with collaborators like the White House to get kids outdoors through Every Kid in a Park, and most importantly, raise and allocate critical funds to keep our national parks safe. And with the ongoing support of fellow park lovers, we’ll continue for years to come.

Native American youth in Glen Canyon

Our Active Trails program helps kids connect with the outdoors, shown here at Glen Canyon. 

We were founded on, and continue to embody, our core values that reflect an unwavering commitment and connection to our national parks.
 

NPF Values

  • Philanthropy: We believe private resources are critical to embracing America’s national parks, monuments, historic places, and programs.

  • Stewardship: We believe the national parks are treasured resources and that all Americans have a responsibility to understand, protect, and care for them.

  • Outreach: We believe that by engaging people across all ages, races, and backgrounds that we will create the next generation of park supporters.

  • Partnership: We value quality relationships and partnerships that best multiply direct, positive impacts to the National Park Service.

  • Commitment to the National Park Service: We are dedicated to working jointly with the National Park Service, advancing mutually beneficial relationships built on trust, collaboration, and a shared vision for our national parks.

  • Vitality: We make innovative investments and support activities that build a financially and perennially strong Foundation (NPF).

  • Accountability: We place a premium on carefully measuring and clearly communicating how our resources are being invested to support the NPF mission