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The national parks: whose backyard?

An early morning hike near Joshua Tree National ParkAn early morning hike near Joshua Tree National ParkPhoto credit: Darcy Kiefel

Say you're out exploring in your favorite national park—skirting the base of a rock formation in Joshua Tree, or making your way to the windswept coast at Acadia. You're just getting into a rhythm when the trail takes a turn and you see, instead of an empty horizon, a house and driveway. Huh, you think. How'd that get there?

Chances are, you've stumbled upon an inholding: a privately owned piece of land within the boundaries of the park. Even the most celebrated of our public lands face threats from this kind of development, which can impact trail access, water quality, and habitat health—not to mention interrupting your hike.

Inholdings can also pose a challenge to efficient management of public land, for example, by driving up the cost of building infrastructure and controlling wildfires. With the value of these properties on the rise, they're often a top priority for conservation. That's why we're working with the National Park System and private landowners to protect the most important sites for everyone to enjoy. Here's a few examples: 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Photo credit: Dave Long

Rocky Mountain National Park celebrates its 100th year in 2015: we can think of no better birthday present than conserving an inholding that would provide new public access to the Fall River. For visitors driving in from nearby Estes Park, the property's pristine montane forest is the sight that greets their arrival. If we're successful, that will still be the case in another hundred years.

Zion National Park

Photo credit: National Park Service

Movie buffs might recognize Zion's Cave Valley from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The level ground and access to water make it an enticing spot for private development—but construction here would mar the view from a popular trail that runs to Kolob Arch. We're working to safeguard several unprotected properties in the valley and keep the desert backdrop pristine.

Glacier National Park

Photo credit: National Park Service

Some inholdings boast a rich human history: the Doody Homestead, former residence of one of Glacier's first park rangers, has a colorful story you'd find only in the American West. Recently protected with help from The Trust for Public Land, it's now a favorite stopping point for whitewater rafters on the Flathead River.

In many cases, projects like these are made possible in part by the Land and Water Conservation Fund—a critical source of support for public spaces from the National Parks right down to your neighborhood playground. The fund is up for renewal in September: learn more about how it works, and what you can do to help it survive


Keep the National Parks free of houses
Charles R. Bolick
National parks should remain as they and enjoyed by everyone and not cluttered housing developments whose genesis were fueld by greed.
12.19.2016 - I wholeheartedly agree with you, Mr. Bolick. Greed just creates chaos for everyone.
Keep up the work.
Rabbi Stanley H...
If John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt recognized the value of conservation and preserving our natural beauty, why can't corporate America realize that profit not as important as the values of the American people.
Seems that if those rich enough, to bribe access then they should definitely pay their own way, all the way. Fire, water and road access, in other words, if they can afford to subvert rights others can't they must assume all the consequences without ever asking to be a burden or special privilege over others who pay for these programs and services.
Seems that if those rich enough, to bribe access then they should definitely pay their own way, all the way. Fire, water and road access, in other words, if they can afford to subvert rights others can't they must assume all the consequences without ever asking to be a burden or special privilege over others who pay for these programs and services.
Barbara Laudan
Private development should be banned in all national parks. I want to see nature the way it has always been, not some mansion or conglomeration of private houses, stores, or motels. The greed of some people spoils the enjoyment of those who value nature and wildlife, and also ruins of lives of the animals who have always lived there.
Wendy Sheldon
Oh my god you got to be kidding me? Can this really happen? Really just who has a right to do this? I hope not. Dont ruin our national parks please!!!
Peter F. Alexan...
McMansions...please do not degrade McDonalds...they are Ego Temples.
Ida Griffin
Noooooo don't ruin it with your greediness!
Kathryn Ryan
Please preserve the sanctity of our parks. There has already been enough damage by government shutdowns, funding....the list goes on. Once developed, it can never return to its original state.
James Higgins
Kelly Grayson
Leave the national parks alone. Dear Lord I lift these public officials up to you.. Lord I pray you will work in their hearts and minds. Father they obviously need your guidance desperatly, they are destroying our majestic gifts from you all to make money. Father they no longer show caring for our beautiful earth. Father I beg you as it is obvious that our elected offials no longer care for our lands or our working class. Show them the way home. Father we need you back in the white house and America. Amen
Margaret Johnson
I used to work in RMNP, I was the Chief Dude Wrangler taking care of the horses and arranging and heading up the rides for the Dudes. The area is now cabins for the help. I lived down the road halfway to Granby. I'd have liked it better if the park had had to tear down the cabins etc and put their help outside the Park but it was probably easier to just take over the ranch as it was, it was the first dude ranch in the Park, so I guess it was cheaper, but I missed working there.
Walter K Wiszowaty
Public land means for use of everyone and should be preserved. Private land ownership will pollute the environment and then people wont want wild animals and so it will begin, until all is lost. Buy a lot on Mars and get the hell out of here.
Sally Bookwalter
As exhilarating to visit and see the natural parks sites, why despoiled for others by building your house there. That's stingy and thoughtless of others. The next thing you know; those home owners will likely want to build a big stone wall around "their kingdom" even obscuring more of the view. In searching for their ideals in life, those who can afford to think such dreams, need to stop thinking only of themsevels, like spoiled children.
Gloria Rosenkrantz
I've enjoyed these parks in my life, please preserve them for our future generations, it is the right thing to do.
Marilyn Egan
Don't let anyone ruin the integrity and natural beauty of our National treasures please I beg of all. No development, shops or any building of man made structures.
Rose Jenkins
Wilderness and natural settings are just that: wild and natural. Nothing is less natural than an inflated ego piling up a junk pile to distract from the Creation. If only there was a cure for stupidity... (Actually there is: it's called Conscience or Mindfulness.)
Heather Tillman
Protecting these pristine environments from any kind of development should be a top priority.
dave schrade
leave our sacred wilderness alone
Edward Vaughn
The old saying used to be "Money can't buy everything." Well, apparently today that is no longer true. "If you have enough money, you can buy any damn thing you want," including the destruction of National Parks. Right Misters Koch and you other billionaire parasites? Well, you can keep your money and damn well leave the earth alone. Some things are more sacred than money. Our children and their future, for instance. Believe it or not.
Marilyn Lee
This is OUR land not the 1%. You can buy our politicians but you can't buy the American people!!
lee sulkowski
protect the parks
Joan Hasselgren
Our public parks belong to us, the public. We have voted to keep our parks safe from development and congress' job is to keep our parks for us the public.
Leave my mountains in East TN alone!
Daryl Schuckman
It is just more of the same the rich having no regard for anyone or anything but themselves, they will never have enough until it is all gone. What would Ed Abbey say today, Hail King Lud.
Clara E Sharp
Do the national parks not belong to all of us? They all have special meaning for our history, and our future. Stop trespassing on my sacred land.
Susan Peck
i don't know anyone that wouldn't love to have a home with the kind of views our National Parks can provide, but please don't take away the pristine parks that are our children's inheritance. Building on our public lands must not be allowed.
Rosemary Graham...
I thought that all the National Parks belonged to the American People, not private owners who stole the Land from the Native Americans. We need to keep these arrogant People out of our National Parks!
Jennifer Camp
Keep all public parks public. I am totally against private development on this beautiful parks; the very thought of this would send Theodore Roosevelt turning in his grave.
Donna Cunningham
I'm very interested what hearing about what you have been doing to protect our Countries lady great parklands and Wild America.
lisa mazza
forgive me in advance for being kind of angry ....... as if we don't destroy enough of this planet already, now we have to allow our national parks to be invaded as well. there's something really, really wrong with that. it has been said that the national parks are the greatest invention of all time ........... and "they" want to mess with the last pieces of perfection on the planet (at least in this country), our national parks. it's just like in other countries where forests and jungles are lush, etc. "now they're protected, now they're not." WE ARE IN TROUBLE - REAL TROUBLE and i don't understand how anybody over the age of ten doesn't get that. it's that simple !!!!!!!!!!!!! we need to protect ALL that is left of this planet that we have yet to destroy. the time is here and now for some recuperation from all of our mistakes time and time again and again and again and again .................. grrr !!!
Please leave the parks as they are. leave them so future generations can enjoy thej as we do. Thank you. odette gombrich
Our national Parks need to stay as pristine as possible and stop selling parts off to the highest bidder.
If we allow any agency to build on public parkland, it will, in no time, get the scenic value replaced by a McDonald's double arches. THINK ABOUT THIS AND REALIZE THAT OUR PARKS AND NATIONAL MONUMENTS ARE FOR EVERY LAST PERSON, NOT PRIVATE PERSONS. NOR RANCHERS.
glynis boyd
This appears to be a case for use of eminent domain. Get the private owners out of the public parks. Or, curtail their access to natural resources( ie: water, roads, etc.) Right of way leans are not a given/or privilege.
Virginia H. Bennett
This is shocking news to me!! I had no idea that individuals were allowed to a) own ANY PROPERTY within our national parks -- and b) to build any homes with or without any outbuildings. WHAT'S THE POINT?? Weren't these parks created to preserve tracts of our wilderness areas to represent the varying flora & fauna of our country? Is this some new "wrinkle"?? If yes, it should be stopped in its tracks!
Yes, protect our national parks for future generations! Wonderful idea! Keep me informed, Thanks, K
Years ago Rod Sterling wrote a TV program in which his characters were competing for land in an over-crowded world. The prize for winning the foot race was land in the national parks. It raised our awareness toward protecting what we have. This play reminded us of how Teddy Roosevelt was ON-TARGET for establishing and maintaining our National Parks. Rather than opening the land, a very large land barrier between developers seeking profit at the public's expense needs to remain protected. Our National parks are there for a reason. We DO NOT need people living in the protected areas nor even close to it. Those areas are for our wildlife. People can live on top of one another, animals and trees cannot. Let people enjoy the free roaming spaces as sanctuaries, get-away places, from the cities we've created and not more living space for people.
Cindy Vines
Leave the parks alone as get aways for people. Habitat for animals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Don't take all of that away. Some people want to put houses and businesses everywhere. It is overcrowded as it is with nowhere to go where you don't see over-sized houses, skyscrapers and such. Leave our parks alone.
Sam Talbot
Are we really surprised that the despoilers of so much private land and even foreign resources and peoples now have their sights set on the most treasured land in the U.S.? What bigger prize for the entitled rich than to own that which was set aside for the public, the people whom their friends like Romney say "don't count"?! Let's NOT let these greedy, vicious oppressors pollute another INCH of natural beauty or deprive ONE ordinary American of their right to see and enjoy natural beauty!
Jamie Klaristenfeld
The greedy wealthy have allready destroyed the parks(the whole worlds Ecosystem!) via The Petroleum Industry,and the Nuclear Power Industry. The have akso destroyed the socio~economic systems,culture s around the world......i saw Vermont Mcmansions ruin my favorite sacred sites!
Inholdings are pieces of land that the federal government didn't buy when they established the park but are inside the park boundaries. These pieces of land exist because the government didn't appropriate the money to buy them when they established the park. The federal government isn't selling off pieces of government owned national park land to rich people to build vacation homes on. They exist because of the federal government's corner-cutting and neglect in not buying them in the first place. The solution is to pressure Congress to complete its job and appropriate money to buy up the inholdings through eminent domain.

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