Apart from the National Parks, the most famous and often largest preserves of nature and landscape, the National Park Service also handles the administration of National Monuments, National Historic Parks and National Historic Sites. These designations refer to sites with historic relevance. Furthermore, there are National Recreation Areas, National Forests, National Rivers, National Seashores and further designations of protected areas. The idea of protection in this regard not only refers to scenic and natural attractions, but may also mean monument conservation, as it also applies to facilities, buildings and places having cultural or historic significance. These range from former battlefield all the way to glacier sceneries. All added up, there are some 400 of such conservation areas in the USA and in the associated territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Individual US states furthermore maintain State Parks, which can also be seen as covering preserved areas.
The National Parks system was introduced by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Before that, ever since the opening of Yellowstone as world’s first National Park in 1872, all parks had an individual administration programn. In all the parks, visitor information and service facilities are run and maintained, which host teaching programs, kid activities and cultural events organized by the Park Rangers. Thus, the National Park Service arguably also fulfills an important role in public education. Many of the parks also offer overnight accommodation options for visitors, as well as options to book tours, take part in sport activities or volunteer programs. In 2014, all units together registered more than 292 million visitors. Tourists may purchase individual tickets or discounted combination tickets; many of the units can even be visited without admission charges.
The areas and structures cared for by the National Park Service together encompass a total area of more than 330,000 square kilometers, with Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska alone already covering 53,000 kmē. Apart from the space, the institution’s inventory also lists some 14,000 kilometers of roads, 21,000 buildings and over 120 million museum exhibits.