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National Parks: America's Best Idea

Produced by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns. Originally broadcast as episodes of the television documentary on PBS in 2009. Episode One, The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890) In 1851, word spreads across the country of a beautiful area of California' Yosemite Valley, attracting visitors who wish to exploit the land's scenery for commercial gain and those who wish to keep it pristine. Among the latter is a Scottish-born wanderer named John Muir, for whom protecting the land becomes a spiritual calling. In 1864, Congress passes an act that protects Yosemite from commedirector, Rob van Hattum director, Rob van Hattum director, Rob van Hattum rcial development for "public use, resort and recreation" the first time in world history that any government has put forth this idea and hands control of the land to California. Meanwhile, a "wonderland" in the northwest corner of the Wyoming territory attracts visitors to its bizarre landscape of geysers, mud pots and sulfur pits. In 1872, Congress passes an act to protect this land as well. Since it is located in a territory, rather than a state, it becomes America' first national park: Yellowstone. Special feature: The making of the National Parks. Filmmaker Ken Burns and his longtime colleague Dayton Duncan take us on a behind-the-scenes tour of their series the National Parks: America's Best Ideas. Includes Spanish audio and subtitles. 116 min. Episode Two, The Last Refuge (1890-1915) By the end of the 19th century, widespread industrialization has left many Americans worried about whether the country will have any pristine land left. At the same time, poachers in the parks are rampant, and visitors think nothing of littering or carving their names near iconic sites like Old Faithful. Congress has yet to establish clear judicial authority or appropriations for the protection of the parks. This sparks a conservation movement by organizations such as the Sierra Club, led by John Muir; the Audubon Society, led by George Bird Grinnell; and the Boone and Crockett Club, led by Theodore Roosevelt. The movement fails, however, to stop San Francisco from building the Hetch Hetchy dam at Yosemite, flooding Muir's "mountain temple" and leaving him broken-hearted before he dies. Special feature: Capturing the parks: a behind-the-scenes look. Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan and their crew on location at Denali, the Grand Canyon and other national parks. 131 min. Episode three, The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919) In the early 20th century, America has a dozen national parks, but they are a haphazard patchwork of special places under the supervision of different federal agencies. The conservation movement, after failing to stop the Hetch Hetchy dam, pushes the government to establish one unified agency to oversee all the parks, leading to the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. Its first director, Stephen Mather, a wealthy businessman and passionate park advocate who fought vigorously to establish the NPS, launches an energetic campaign to expand the national park system and bring more visitors to the parks. Among his efforts is to protect the Grand Canyon from encroaching commercial interests and establish it as a national park, rather than a national monument. Special feature: Musical journeys through the National Parks. National parks timeline, "Peace a last/Across the ocean", "Horizons", "Green groves of Erin", "The shores of Ogygia", "Teddy Bears' picnic". 114 min. Episode Four, Going Home (1920-1933) While visiting the parks was once predominantly the domain of Americans wealthy enough to afford the high-priced train tours, the advent of the automobile allows more people than ever before to visit the parks. Mather embraces this opportunity and works to build more roads in the parks. In North Carolina, Horace Kephart, a reclusive writer, and George Masa, a Japanese immigrant, launch a campaign to protect the last strands of virgin forest in the Smoky Mountains by establishing it as a park. In Wyoming, John D. Rockefeller Jr. begins quietly buying up land in the Teton Mountain Range and valley in a secret plan to donate it to the government as a park. Special feature: Outtakes: an interview with Nevada Barr, author and former National Park Service ranger. "The Boss", the story of Frank Pinley and Casa Grande. 117 min. Episode Five, Great Nature (1933-1945) To battle unemployment in the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the Civilian Conservation Corps, which spawns a "golden age" for the parks through major renovation projects. In a groundbreaking study, a young NPS biologist named George Melendez Wright discovers widespread abuses of animal habitats and pushes the service to reform its wildlife policies. Congress narrowly passes a bill to protect the Everglades in Florida as a national park the first time a park has been created solely to preserve an ecosystem, as opposed to scenic beauty. As America becomes entrenched in World War II, Roosevelt is pressured to open the parks to mining, grazing and lumbering. The president also is subjected to a storm of criticism for expanding the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming by accepting a gift of land secretly purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. Special features: The National Parks: This is America. Mini-documentary. This short film celebrates the diverse history of the national parks, bringing together stories of extraordinary people from a variety of backgrounds who devoted their lives to the national park ideal--to preserve and protect these special places for everyone. Narrated by Ken Burns. 116 min. Episode Six, The Morning of Creation (1946-1980) Following World War II, the parks are overwhelmed as visitation reaches 62 million people a year. A new billion-dollar campaign: Mission 66 is created to build facilities and infrastructure that can accommodate the flood of visitors. A biologist named Adolph Murie introduces the revolutionary notion that predatory animals, which are still hunted, deserve the same protection as other wildlife. In Florida, Lancelot Jones, the grandson of a slave, refuses to sell to developers his family's property on a string of unspoiled islands in Biscayne Bay and instead sells it to the federal government to be protected as a national monument. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter creates an uproar in Alaska when he sets aside 56 million acres of land for preservation, the largest expansion of protected land in history. In 1995, wolves are re-established in Yellowstone, making the world's first national park a little more like what it once was. Special features: Contemporary stories from America's national parks: series of five short films. San Antonio Missions: Keeping history alive. A look at this thriving hub for Latino culture. Yosemite's Buffalo Soldiers. Ranger Shelton Johnson and the story of the African American soldiers who patrolled the High Sierras. Mount Rushmore: Telling America's stories. Superintendent Gerard Baker establishes a new interpretive program at an American shrine. Manzanar: "Never Again." A former Japanese American internment camp from World War II becomes a national historic site. City kids in National Parks. National Park Service efforts to bring inner city kids into parks, often for their first encounter with wilderness. 116 min.