The management of Craters of the Moon has generally been free of controversy. This was the result of Craters of the Moon's geographic isolation and relatively small size, conditions that contributed to the perception of the monument as a wayside; its proximity to Yellowstone and Sun Valley made it an attractive sideshow to other destinations. In a sense Craters of the Moon never shook this image. Today modern highways bring more visitors who only remain a short time.
Just as the monument lay on the fringe of the Snake River Plain, it lay on the fringe of Park Service management. It occupied a place in the back of the agency mind. It lacked the kind of dramatic conflicts that demanded attention, adding self-sufficiency to its wayside image, especially during its early decades. The monument was a place where old superintendents went to retire and new ones went to train.
It was a weird and beautiful place that captured the imagination and won the devotion of many managers. As its management history suggests, Craters of the Moon existed on the outer reaches in geography only. Otherwise it was tied directly to or influenced by the Park Service mission as it evolved. In a sense this shortened the monument's distance from the agency's mainstream. Remoteness and size, moreover, formed significant management themes. Along with the monument's noncontroversial nature, they contributed to several management "firsts." Craters of the Moon was among the first in its region to be blessed with Mission 66, to have a resource management plan, and to be comprehensively researched and scientifically understood. It was the first area in the national park system to have a designated wilderness. Less positively, it generally ranked high among parks frequently overlooked for funding and staffing, and was occasionally the recipient of poor resource management decisions and development planning handed down from Park Service officials unfamiliar with the monument.
If this administrative history has attempted to do anything, it has been to understand the monument's management themes, to set its management within the context of agency history, and to document its management patterns and program development. Craters of the Moon's management is as deceptively simple as the lava formations it protects are deceptively fragile. Managers are all too aware that the monument is not a machine that runs itself. The resource management program attests to the growing complexity of park issues throughout the system and how many of these are present at Craters. Remoteness and size, perhaps, place it in a unique position. Forces threatening resources in larger parks are not as pronounced at the monument. They do exist but often on a more manageable scale for a park that is a manageable size. It has and will be the responsibility of monument managers to ensure that this situation prevails, and that agency officials do not interpret success and the absence of crisis as reasons for overlooking the monument's needs.
Last Updated: 27-Sep-1999