An Administrative History
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Planning in the National Park System

Decisions affecting the national parks are not made quickly. To ensure that each park is preserved, used, and developed in accordance with its specific purposes, planning takes place systematically, following agency guidelines. The most general planning document is the park's Statement for Management. The Statement for Management, prepared by the superintendent and staff of the park, describes the park's purpose, its current management and use. It identifies influences that affect the park, reports the status of research projects, and identifies major issues and management objectives. The Statement for Management does not suggest ways to handle issues or to meet objectives. Ideally, this document is updated every two years.

According to the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, each park should have and regularly revise a General Management Plan, the next higher level of planning above the Statement for Management. The General Management Plan replaced the Master Plan, the planning document that was in use when Guadalupe Mountains National Park was authorized. Both the Master Plan and the General Management Plan set forth the plan for management of the park and for its use by the public. The primary difference is that in the draft stage the General Management Plan provides several alternatives and sets out the environmental impact of each alternative. Alternatives are compared and evaluated before adoption of one for the General Management Plan. The Master Plan required preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, setting forth the environmental impacts of the plan to resources of the park and describing mitigating measures and unavoidable adverse effects. The Master Plan and the accompanying Environmental Impact Statement were subject to review by the public and other government agencies before acceptance.

Development Concept Plans are the most specific level of planning and are created to implement the strategies suggested in the General Management Plan or Master Plan. They also require Environmental Impact Assessments. Drafts of Development Concept Plans are circulated for review by the public and by other government agencies. Other planning documents at the same level as Development Concept Plans that have affected Guadalupe Mountains National Park include a Wilderness Recommendation, an Interpretive Prospectus, and Resource Management Plans, as well as studies undertaken to find solutions to specific questions.

The process of planning for Guadalupe Mountains National Park began in 1961, after the Pratt family donated their land in McKittrick Canyon. At first, park managers treated McKittrick Canyon as a detached unit of Carlsbad Caverns, but after Congressional authorization of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the parks were managed as separate entities that shared common regional interests. Although all major planning documents were in place by 1978, the planning process was ongoing. During the 1980s park managers drafted new versions of a number of planning documents.

A discussion of planning for Guadalupe Mountains National Park cannot be organized neatly either by chronology or by topic because much of the early work was interrelated and accomplished concurrently. Therefore, the first section of this chapter discusses development of the Master Plan and documents related to it: the Wilderness Proposal, the Development Concept Plan for Pine Springs, and the tramway study. Subsequent sections are arranged in topical order.


Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001