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The National Parks: America's Best Idea

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Simultaneously a biography of both historical and contemporary characters and a uniquely American idea, this 12-hour, six-part documentary, directed by Ken Burns and co-produced with writer Dayton Duncan, traces the evolution of national parks beginning in the mid-1800s and follows it over the next 150 years. It's narrated by actor Peter Coyote and features first-person historical accounts, read by actors including Tom Hanks, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow and Adam Arkin, of people who helped create the parks and save them from destruction.

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The automobile allows more people than ever to visit the national parks; campaign to protect the remaining virgin forest in the Smoky Mountains.
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The National Park Service is established in 1916; Stephen Mather campaigns to establish the Grand Canyon in Arizona as a national park.
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President Theodore Roosevelt champions the national parks; conservation movement fails to prevent the building of the Hetch Hetchy dam at Yosemite.
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In 1864, Congress passes an act that protects California's Yosemite Valley; in 1872, Congress passes an act to protect a part of Wyoming, which becomes America's first national park -- Yellowstone.

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