People lived in places destined to become national parks long before cartographers began mapping their boundaries in the 19th Century. In some cases, oral histories and traditions place people in these locations since time immemorial. Their lives intertwined inexorably with the environment. They drew nourishment from fishing, hunting, farming and food gathering, and found spiritual meaning in the sun, moon, animals, plants, and changing seasons around them.
In modern times, many lands once used for homesteading, ranching, logging, mining and commercial fishing now make up our national parks. Some of these uses scarred the landscape, while others left barely a footprint. In each case, the National Park Service strives to understand and interpret the past while managing for the present and future.
GIS helps us understand the complex and related ways that we use the landscape. The National Park Service uses GIS technology to explain these relationships. In American Samoa, GIS mapping helped outline the different uses of the land, protecting the rainforest and showing residents where they could grow food. In Alaska, GIS helped resolve an important court case regarding mining claims. The technology also helped create the first map designed to better understand and manage subsistence hunting on the Alaska Peninsula. And the federal government relies on GIS software as a tool to combine traditional knowledge from elders about fishing into management plans.
The National Park Service seeks to
and respect enduring human values for parks. People use these special
for everything from religious ceremonies and recreation to sport and
hunting and fishing. GIS reveals and documents our relationship with
and helps us all become better stewards of the land.
Collaboration between the National Park
Service and several Samoan villages lets farmers grow traditional crops
such as bananas, breadfruit and taro within a federally managed
The National Park of American Samoa is unique in that the federal
does not own the land but leases it from several villages for a period
of 50 years. The lease agreement protects the integrity of the
archeological and cultural resources, and the traditional way of life,
called fa’asamoa. The NPS manages lands and reefs in the park while
keep their subsistence farming rights. This cooperation extended to the
use of GIS technology to map and classify 232 acres within the
park for subsistence farming. This lets villagers continue to farm land
they have cultivated within the last 15 years, using traditional tools
and methods. ArcGIS software developed by ESRI integrated data from
positioning systems, field observations and sketches, and remotely
imagery, such as aerial photographs. GIS maps served as an important
to protect America’s southernmost rainforest and traditional
farming in the park.
Rory West Jr. shown taking a GPS Position with a PLGR along the edge of a taro field on Ta'u Island.
2002 aerial photograph showing coconut trees and banana trees adjacent to a freshly planted taro field, Ofu Island.
Samoan Crops from upper left: taro, breadfruit, bananas, coconuts.
NPSA land delineation shown above the village of Vatia, Tutuila Island, American Samoa.
For thousands of years, Alaska natives
have relied on fish, wildlife, and other natural resources to provide
shelter, clothing, transportation, handicrafts and trade. Today, many
native and non-native people continue to depend on the land for
survival and livelihood. The federal government has managed subsistence
hunting and trapping on its lands since 1990 and at fisheries on
rivers since 1999. That year, the federal government created the first
GIS hunt map on the Alaska Peninsula for the Anaikchak National
and Preserve. The monument, midway down the road-less peninsula, is
to a fascinating 2,000-foot-deep volcanic feature known as a caldera,
formed from the collapse of a 7,000-foot-high mountain. The NPS and
federal agencies understand the importance of subsistence hunting for
who depend on it and have used GIS mapping to show where people can
hunt and trap inside the monument, within federal guidelines.
The "Gates" from Surprise Lake
Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve; Federal Public Lands Under Subsistence Hunting Regulations.
Salmon is a valuable subsistence resource and accounts for nearly 50% of the subsistence foods used by residents of communities near the Aniakchak NMPr.
GIS is helping the National Park
pay a fair price for privately held mining claims inside the Denali
Park and Preserve in Alaska. The expansion of McKinley National Park to
the newly created Denali preserve in 1980 included an area of placer
lode mining claims for gold and other minerals. The NPS has been buying
these claims whenever possible for preservation, sometimes ending up in
court over the issue of paying fair market value. In these disputes,
park has used GIS maps based on data collected from aerial photographs
and other technology to show the extent of mining on the upper reaches
of Caribou Creek in the preserve. GIS maps helped show that one
had mined more gold than stated in court. As a result, a judge valued
mining claims at about $1 million instead of the $8 million sought by
plaintiff, a savings of $7 million to the government.
Kantishna Hills Mining Court Case Exhibit