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National parks are widely recognized as an American invention and export, created in the 19th century western United States and eventually adopted in nearly every country in the world. Wallace Stegner once remarked that national parks were the best idea America ever had. Perhaps, but by the end of the 20th century, scholars had begun to critically reassess the idea of national parks as an unmitigated good, contributing new insights to our understanding of nature-society relations.

The Yellowstone Model

The world's first national park was created in the western United States, though it is debatable whether it was Yosemite or Yellowstone. Yosemite was actually the first federally designated protected area, created by a Congressional act signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. However, it remained under ...

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