There are many environmental factors, natural-and-human-caused, that affect Catoctin Mountain Park. Situated at the tail end of the Blue Ridge mountains, the park is within 60 miles of Washington D.C. and in close proximity to other large cities. Being close to urban areas can have negative affects on the parks resources. Air and water quality has potential to be degraded from industrial pollution, smog, and acid rain.
Other concerns are noise pollution and loss of the scenic night sky due to artificial lighting sources. What effect will these factors have on Catoctin’s natural and scenic environment?
The National Park Service is challenged to protect “resources unimpaired for present and future generations”, so therefore must be prepared to deal with these issues.
There are also many natural factors that can alter, stress, or in some instances enhance the environment. Changes in weather (droughts or floods) can stress vegetation and animals, dry up wetlands, springs and seeps. Fire can scorch acres of forest and leave behind blackened earth, but at the same time encourage tree regeneration and seed germination. Damage from storms can weaken trees, making them more vulnerable to diseases or pests. Some pests or diseases are especially problematic because they are not native to the area, but have been introduced and do not have a natural niche in Catoctin’s environment. In some cases these introduced pests, diseases, and plants must be carefully monitored and managed to keep them in check.
Change is a natural part of the environment. Ecosystems must be flexible and evolve with the surroundings in order to survive. Catoctin Mountain Park recognizes this concept and is careful to allow natural processes to occur, while keeping “unnatural” occurrences at a minimum.