The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has historically utilized its enabling legislation (Idaho Code 67-4219) as its mission statement: "It is the intent of the legislature that the department of parks and recreation shall formulate and put into execution a long range, comprehensive plan and program for the acquisition, planning, protection, operation, maintenance, development and wise use of areas of scenic beauty, recreational utility, historic, archaeological or scientific interest, to the end that the health, happiness, recreational opportunities and wholesome enjoyment of the life of the people may be further encouraged."
Prior to the authorization of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, there existed in the state areas designated "scenic and recreational," usually parks and campgrounds. Since 1907 these areas had been administered by the State Land Board. In 1947, state parks were transferred to the Highway Department, and responsibility grew with the addition of a number of roadside areas, where motorists on the freeway might pull off for a night's rest. In 1949 control of the parks system was transferred to the State Land Board. A Parks Division was created within the Land Board in 1953. John W. Emmert, a retired former superintendent of Glacier National Park, took charge of the Idaho program in April 1958. This form of administration continued until 1959 when Emmert was replaced with three regional directors. Since 1965, the Department has been governed by a six-person bipartisan board, each member representing a different geographic area of the state.
Since it's inception the State Parks system has grown to include over 25 park and recreation areas. It is of interest to note that despite the vast wildernesses and high percentage of federal lands in Idaho, the state does not have a single national park within its boundaries. The National Park Service does however administer several national monuments and reserves in Idaho.
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 40 national parks and monuments then in existence and those yet to be established.
This "Organic Act" of August 25, 1916, states that "the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations . . . by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life 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."
The National Park System of the United States comprises 378 areas covering more than 83 million acres in 49 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. These areas are of such national significance as to justify special recognition and protection in accordance with various acts of Congress.
By Act of March 1, 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming "as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" and placed it "under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior." The founding of Yellowstone National Park began a worldwide national park movement. Today more than 100 nations contain some 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.
In the years following the establishment of Yellowstone, the United States authorized additional national parks and monuments, most of them carved from the federal lands of the West. These, also, were administered by the Department of the Interior, while other monuments and natural and historical areas were administered as separate units by the War Department and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture. No single agency provided unified management of the varied federal parklands.
An Executive Order in 1933 transferred 63 national monuments and military sites from the Forest Service and the War Department to the National Park Service. This action was a major step in the development of today's truly national system of parks - a system that includes areas of historical as well as scenic and scientific importance.
Congress declared in the General Authorities Act of 1970 "that the National Park System, which began with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every region ... and that it is the purpose of this Act to include all such areas in the System...."
Additions to the National Park System are now generally made through acts of Congress, and national parks can be created only through such acts. But the President has authority, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, to proclaim national monuments on lands already under federal jurisdiction. The Secretary of the Interior is usually asked by Congress for recommendations on proposed additions to the System. The Secretary is counseled by the National Park System Advisory Board, composed of private citizens, which advises on possible additions to the System and policies for its management.