A national park is a park in use for conservation purposes. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently, there is a common idea: the conservation of 'wild nature' for posterity and as a symbol of national pride.
An international organization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), has defined "National Park" as its Category II type of protected areas. According to the IUCN, 6,555 national parks worldwide met its criteria in 2006. IUCN is still discussing the parameters of defining a national park.
While this type of national park had been proposed previously, the United States established the first "public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people", Yellowstone National Park, in 1872. Although Yellowstone was not officially termed a "national park" in its establishing law, it was always termed such in practice and is widely held to be the first and oldest national park in the world. However, the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve (established in 1776),and the area surrounding Bogd Khan Uul Mountain (1778) are seen as the oldest legally protected areas, predating Yellowstone by nearly a century.
National parks are almost always open to visitors