Enticed out of retirement in 1915 to become the first director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather forged landmark advances in the quality of the American environment. Mather had a lifelong love of birds and other wildlife, and worked for wildlife protection. When he complained to his friend, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane, about the deteriorating conditions he noticed in Yosemite National Park, Lane responded, "If you don't like the condition of our national parks, why don't you come to Washington and do something about it?"
When he arrived in the nations capital, Mather immediately took up the task of securing a bureau for the management and protection of national parks and monuments. On August 25, 1916, President Wilson signed the Raker-Kent-Smoot Bill authorizing the National Park Service. Secretary Lane appointed Mather director - a post which he held until early 1929.
During Mather's 12 years on the job, the size of the national parks and the monuments under his jurisdiction nearly doubled. He formulated lasting policies on scenic and historic resources, developed an outstanding personnel organization, and initiated programs for interpretation of park features. No doubt about it: Mather did go to Washington, and he did do something about the conditions in America's national parks. Today, the stewardship of 80.7 million acres of National Park land is built on the foundation Mather created.
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