tv BBC World News America PBS December 26, 2011 6:00pm-6:30pm EST
as possible. we have been termed selfish for wanting development... dunham, voice-over: i was fearful of it. i thought the same thing that most people did, that it was going to harm us. any interference by the federal government in any way was offensive to alaskans in general and sewardites in particular. we were just fearful of what would happen to us. cook: i was sent up there to make it work, and what i did is i hand-picked people. i brought up a task force the first year. i said, "whatever you do, never lie to the people. "don't whitewash anything. go from town to town. "live in the towns. be truthful." it's awfully hard to stay angry at your neighbor if your neighbor's a good neighbor. governor hammond and i came up with a term that he used to help soften things, and that was that the new national monuments and tourism would be alaska's permanent pipeline because we won't run out of visitors but in a long time
run out of oil. coyote: while john cook tried to dampen the local hostility to carter's proclamations, the alaska coalition prepared for another congressional battle to settle all the alaska land issues once and for all. my friends, the vote you make in just a few moments is the one you've got to live with and your grandchildren have to live with. there ought to be a few places left in the world the way the almighty made them. we'll never see a buffalo herd again, but if we're wise today, your grandchildren might be able to see a caribou herd. this is the test of conservation in your congressional career. this will be the most important vote you will cast. coyote: on december 2, 1980, after another year and a half of debate and compromise, president carter signed the alaska national interest lands
conservation act into law. it wasn't everything he and the alaska coalition had once hoped for, but it was still the largest single expansion of protected conservation lands in world history creating 4 national forests, 10 national preserves, 16 national wildlife refuges. the national park system with 47 million acres added to its care, had suddenly more than doubled in size. within those additions were 7 brand-new national parks.
woman: i got a question which-- to write an article on why we need national parks and the question struck me dumb for a minute. it was like saying, "why do we need air?" i mean we need to have these places even if i never go--the only place i've never been is alaska. even if i never go to alaska i need to know it's there.
coyote: and at seward, the national monument at kenai fjords became the seventh of the new national parks. 5 years later, as the tourist economy and seward began to emerge as a crucial part of the town's livelihood the city council quietly but officially rescinded its two previous resolutions denouncing the park idea. several years after that they asked that the national park at their doorstep be expanded.
dunham: i think it's great. it has done a lot for seward. as far as tourism is concerned, it has made a vast difference. there are, i think, a thousand seats on day cruisers that come in and take people out to the fjords. it has proven that it hasn't hurt anything. if anything, it's enhanced it. cook: and in alaska, man was acknowledged. the natives, who were a part of that landscape long before european man came and called it wilderness, were using it. they still get to use it for subsistence purposes. it's still a part of their culture, and they are a part of the preservation. and it's not preserving museum indians. it's preserving a dynamic culture that's within a dynamic landscape that's also changing.
coyote: mt. mckinley national park, which had been in existence since 1917, was also affected by the alaska lands act. its area was nearly tripled in size--2.4 million more acres to the park itself, plus an additional 1.3 million acres in two national preserves next to it--a dramatically larger expansion than even adolph murie had proposed just before his retirement. the old park, surrounded by the new additions, was now officially designated a wilderness, bringing with it even greater protections to the land and animals murie had championed. and as if to symbolize all that had happened, the park's name was changed to reflect its deeper
history. it would revert to the athabaskan indian name for the tremendous mountain at its core--denali, the high one. cook: history will, of course, view the creation of those national parks along with seward's purchase of alaska. history will show that it was the right thing to do. coyote: john cook would soon go back to the lower 48 to become superintendent of great smoky mountains national park. as his father and his father's father had done, he would pass on his love for the national parks to his children, including his daughter kayci who would become the fourth generation of the cook family to serve in the park service.
kayci cook: at the end of my father's career in 1999 i had become what i always wanted to be, a superintendent, and i used my power in that position to honor my father for his 43- year career with the national park service, and i invoked the tradition of the military tattoo at fort mchenry national monument historic shrine, and i bestowed upon my father the title of honorary colonel of the fort mchenry guard. i felt very proud doing that for him, and as we stood up and saluted one another, commander to commander, i felt much more strongly that it was a mantle that he was passing to me much more than anything that i was giving to him. i have a 4-year-old son, sean, and he has already expressed an interest in being a ranger like his mommy.
he sees me put this uniform on every day. he loves to wear my hat around. i thinhe's showing some real promise in terms of being a fifth generation, and that would not hurt my feelings. [car horn honks] man: when i was a child in detroit, national parks really didn't exist. there were no family trips to national parks, so it really didn't exist for me and for my friends. we didn't sit around talking about, "boy, can't wait to get "to the grand canyon," you know. that didn't come up as a topic of conversation in detroit for me as a child. but always, there was this desire to see yellowstone.
there was a desire to see the grand canyon, to see yosemite. there was a desire to fully invest my physical self and my spiritual self in america because that's a part of america that i didn't know, and i wanted to become familiar with it. coyote: in 1984, shelton johnson became the first generation of his family to visit a national park when he stepped off a bus at the entrance to yellowstone and immediately fell in love with everything it offered. johnson soon started a career in the park service and by the 1990s he was working in yosemite as an interpretive ranger, proudly telling visitors the little-known story of the african american buffalo soldiers, the park's earliest protectors.
in the last decades of the 20th century, the focus of the park service shifted. more and more historic sites were saved, including reminders of painful episodes in american history, set aside on the belief that a great nation could openly acknowledge them. from kingsley planta florida, preserving not only the owner's grand home but also the cluster of small cabins used by the slaves who made his comfortable ble su co life possible. the central high school in little rock, arkansas where in 1957 federal troops had to escort 9 african american teenagers past angry mobs to their classes, crystallizing the crisis of school desegregation. from andersonville, a deadly civil war prison camp in georgia to a polished slab of marble in washington d.c.
listing the names of 58,000 dead and missing soldiers who served their country in vietnam. from sand creek and washita on the great plains, where chief black kettle's peaceful cheyenne villagers were massacred by american soldiers. to manzanar in the high desert of eastern california where american citizens of japanese descent were kept behind barbed wire during world war ii. from oklahoma city, where 168 empty chairs now commemorate the men, women, and children killed in a senseless act of domestic terrorism in 1995. to a field near shanksville, pennsylvania, that immortalizes the sacrifices made by passengers aboard
united flight 93 on september 11, 2001. cronon: when you're asked, "well, what is coherent mo "about a system that contains natural wonders "and birthplaces of famous people?" i think the answer you come to is that they are all finally about a vision of where the united states comes from. we come from nature, but we also come from our own past, and so the interpretation of nature and history together is not a distraction that the parks face. it is the very core of the enterprise. they are all about where we come from. coyote: in the years to come americans would continue expanding the number of national parks and continue using them in ever-increasing numbers, from 255 million visitors in 1990, then closing in on 300 million visitors
a decade later--each visit an opportunity to forge a new relationship to their land their nation, and themselves. man: we need national parks to have people--especially our kids--understand what america is. america is not sidewalks. america is not stores. america is not video games. america is not restaurants. we need national parks so people can go there and say, "ah. this is america." duncan: and then it was my turn to take my family out to see the national parks. it was gonna be our own epic journey as a family.
if there's a national park between arizona and the canadian border along the spine of the rocky mountains, we went there. we broiled in the sun in arches and canyonlands went and visited dinosaur as i had when i was a small boy hiked around jenny lake in the grand tetons, then to wear bear bells, which was very exciting for the kids because bears might be around. at yellowstone, i got to watch my children see their first bison. and then we came to glacier national park, and it was something of a sentimental return for diane and me because 13 years earlier when we were courting, we had gone there. and as we went up going to the sun highway, i took a picture
of my daughter, about to become a beautiful woman in the same place that her beautiful mother had once sat for a photograph, and then we got to logan pass, and my son will and i decided to go on a buddy hike and headed up toward hidden lake. and we came around a corner, and coming toward us were these mountain goats. and i said, "shh. just be quiet. "don't do anything to disturb them, and maybe we'll get to "take a picture." well, we just stepped to the side, and this family of mountain goats came right down the trail within about 2 or 3 feet of us, and i don't know whose eyes re bigger, will's or mine. i had asked everybody to keep a diary during our trip
and that night in his diary, will wrote, "this was the most "exciting day of my life." and so it was the most exciting day of my life, too. as coyote: in january of 1995 a convoy of trucks entered yellowstone national park at its northern gate, where a stone arch dedicated by theodore roosevelt proclaims the park's purpose--"for the benefit and enjoyment "of the people." riding in cages in the trucks were 14 gray wolves recently captured in western canada. two months later, after being kept in small pens to
acclimate them to their new surroundings, the wolves were set free, part of a long-range plan to reestablish the predators in their former habitat and make the world's first national park a little more representative of what it had once been. i keep imagining that first wolf coming out of its cage, and i think of adolph being there, and he probably would have cried. just think--we now have wolves in yellowstone. coyote: within only a few years, the wolves were thriving--part, once more, of the entire yellowstone ecosystem. whittlesey: i was in the back country with one of my good
friends, and we're standing out there in the dark, and we hear this long, low, throaty howl, and i'd never heard that sound before. [wolves howling] and i knew immediately what it was, and i remember standing there thinking... "i am so lucky to get to hear that "sound that has not been heard in the back country "of yellowstone for 60-some years." williams: i think our challenge as lovers of our national parks in the 21st century will be the challenge of restoration. i think that's the story that's yet to be told, the story of restoration. and not only are our national parks a gift, i think they're
a covenant. they're a covenant with the future, saying, "this is "where we were. "this is what we loved... "and now it's in your hands." man: one learns that the world, though made, is yet being made, that this is still the morning of creation. this grand show is eternal. it is always sunrise somewhere. the dew is never all dried at once. a shower is forever falling.
for a century, americans have had the opportunity to enjoy our most beautiful natural treasures through the remarkable efforts of our national park service. we're proud to support ken burns and share his belief that by preserving america's past we can build a stronger future. the films of ken burns have captured the beauty, the texture, and the emotion of american history. general motors is proud to support this great artist his outstanding work on pbs, and the great story that is america. our national parks belong to all
of us. they are places of discovery they are places of inspiration they are america's best idea. major funding provided by: the evelyn and walter haas, jr. fund; the park foundation, in support of a clean and healthy environment; the arthur vining davis foundations-- dedicated to strengthening america's future through education; the national park foundation the official charity of america's national parks; the peter jay sharp foundation; the pew charitable trusts; the corporation for public broadcasting; and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.