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The System as a whole is considered to be a national treasure of the United States, and some of the more famous national parks and monuments are sometimes referred to metaphorically as "crown jewels". At 13,200,000 acres (53,000 km²), it is over 16 percent of the entire system.
The system encompasses approximately 84.4 million acres (338,000 km²), of which more than 4.3 million acres (17,000 km²) remain in private ownership. The smallest unit in the system is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, Pennsylvania, at 0.02 acre (80 m²).
In 1966, as the Park Service turned 50 years old, emphasis began to turn from just saving great and wonderful scenery and unique natural features to making parks accessible to the public.
Director George Hartzog began the process with the creation of the National Lakeshores and then National Recreation Areas.
It wasn't until later that summer when the new president, Franklin D. President Roosevelt agreed and issued two Executive orders to make it happen.For example, because of provisions within their enabling legislation, Congaree National Park is almost entirely wilderness area devoid of development, yet Yosemite allows unique developments such as the Badger Pass Ski Area and the O'Shaughnessy Dam within its boundaries.Death Valley National Park has an active mine legislated within its boundaries.The smallest is Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at less than 0.01 acres (40 m).Although all units of the National Park System in the United States are the responsibility of a single agency, they are all managed under individual pieces of authorizing legislation or, in the case of national monuments created under the Antiquities Act, presidential proclamation.