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Official Nonprofit Partner of NPS

Our Mission & History

MichaelSchmitz

As the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation generates private support and builds strategic partnerships to protect and enhance America’s national parks for present and future generations.

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.

The History of Our National Parks

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.

Historic illustration - Yellowstone
Historic illustration of Yellowstone National Park, dated 1904

In 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park as a "public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people," placing it under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. In the subsequent years, the U.S. authorized additional national parks and monuments, many designated due to community activism and lobbying.

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

NPS's mission is to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” To learn more about NPS, visit their website at nps.gov.


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.

Pullman National Monument
Pullman National Monument

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 National Park 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.

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 led 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. To help celebrate 100 years of our national parks in 2016, the National Park Foundation collaborated with the National Park Service to launch the Find Your Park campaign, designed to encourage people to discover their personal connections to our parks.


Our Work Today

Open OutDoors for Kids - Olympic
Open OutDoors for Kids field trip to Olympic National Park


As the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, we directly impact what matters most: our treasured national 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 service corps programs, partner with collaborators like the White House to get kids outdoors through Open OutDoors for Kids, 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.

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

NPF Vision & Mission

Vision: Inspiring all people to connect with and protect America’s national parks.

Mission: As the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation generates private support and builds strategic partnerships to protect and enhance America’s national parks for present and future generations.

Our Guiding Principles

For over 50 years, NPF has worked in support of our nation's treasured national parks. The depth and breadth of our work is guided by our core principles.

  • Child happy and laughing in national park
    Stewardship
    We foster a culture of stewardship of our national parks and the investments we make in them.
  • A riparian, tupelo and cypress tree swamp and creek
    Strategic
    We work with the National Park Service to identify, fund, and advance priority initiatives.
  • Service corps crew members pose on a newly constructed wooden trail
    Impact
    We invest in critical projects that provide lasting, measurable benefits to national parks.
  • A group of people huddle together to look at a map
    Common Ground
    We represent common ground where all those who love the national parks can support a shared agenda.
  • A person helps another person step up along a rocky ridge by holding their hand
    Partnership
    We convene strategic partnerships to amplify our efforts and achieve broader impacts within our national parks.
  • Solar panels to the left of a one-level visitor center along the edge of a canyon
    Innovation
    We employ an entrepreneurial approach to address the complex challenges facing our national parks.
  • Three people stand, wearing gear including hats, backpacks, and holding walking sticks
    Diversity
    We encourage inclusion and diversity of people, beliefs, and viewpoints among National Park Foundation staff, board, and partners.
  • A group of kids look through binoculars into the distance
    Future Orientation
    We help the National Park Service to anticipate future challenges and create long-term solutions.
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