John Day Fossil Beds
Administrative History
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Chapter Four:

A prototype planning process

Since the master plan formulated prior to the monument's establishment remained unapproved, a NPS planning team met in John Day over a one week period in November 1975. As directed, they diverged from what had been the master plan process and aimed at generating a document supported by contracted studies as well as subsidiary plans. Although Ladd subsequently saw the monument's GMP as too narrow in scope because managers and staff did not know enough about park resources, supporting material served as guideposts while NPS infrastructure developed in the upper John Day Basin. [48]

In reopening the monument's planning process, NPS officials sought to make a transition from master plans (which tended to emphasize development of park facilities over resource management concerns) to a more even-handed process. The need to comply with requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act and other legislation brought about environmental statements to accompany master plans in the early 1970s, but the NPS planning process still lacked meaningful public participation. This led to a NPS task force in 1974, which recommended that master plans be replaced with general management plans. By emphasizing resources and visitors (while relegating development to a role of implementing management decisions reached after public review), the GMP represented an improved means of resolving issues and reaching objectives, while affording the public a greater opportunity for input. [49]

The team which initiated the new planning process in John Day during November 1975 began by drafting a statement for management and an outline of planning requirements. They intended to identify issues, problems, and objectives in the former, while the latter represented a first attempt at scheduling needed documents. [50] In preparing for the next step, which focused on generating alternatives for resource management and visitor use, the team found a need for additional baseline information. Paleontological inventory topped their list, since there had been virtually no scientific input to the planning process since J. Arnold Shotwell's assessment of the entire upper basin during the feasibility study of 1967. [51]

After their November meeting, the planning team prevailed upon the NPS regional office in Seattle to request proposals for basic paleontological information. [52] They accepted a proposal from John Rensberger of the University of Washington and let a corresponding contract. Completed in just over a month, Rensberger divided his report into sections on paleontologic resources located in and near the monument, protection, interpretive themes, management alternatives for paleontologic research, and site development. [53]

Rensberger introduced his section on paleontologic resources by defining them, and then proceeded to assess monument lands with respect to how they represented vertebrate and plant fossil localities in the Clarno, John Day, Mascall, and Rattlesnake formations. [54] Perhaps more importantly, he dropped a bombshell on the NPS with a finding that the Clarno Unit as authorized did not appear to contain any important paleontologic resources. As Rensberger went on to explain, fossil localities associated with the Clarno and John Day formations are located a short distance north of where planners had drawn the unit's boundary. [55] In the Painted Hills Unit, Rensberger found two members (of four) known to comprise the John Day Formation. [56] He emphasized that important assemblages of fossil vertebrates occurred in these same two members within the Sheep Rock Unit, as did paleontologic resources associated with the Mascall and Rattlesnake formations. [57]

To put these findings in perspective for the planning team, Rensberger prefaced them by stating that no geographic locality in Oregon contains a complete stratigraphic section. [58] He placed emphasis on the John Day Formation as having the best examples of evolutionary transitions in situ of any terrestrial fossil deposit in the world, while also estimating that it contained 95 percent of the region's known paleontologic resources. [59] With that in mind, Rensberger found the monument to contain only about the older one-third of the chronology present in the fossiliferous John Day Formation, though adjacent localities have roughly another third of the fossil-bearing sequences. [60]

Map of paleontological resources in the vicinity of
the Sheep Rock Unit

Map of paleontological resources in the vicinity of
the Painted Hills

Map of paleontological resources in the vicinity of
the Clarno
Generalized map of paleontological resources in the vicinity of the Sheep Rock Unit, Painted Hills and Clarno
derived from Rensberger's report. Fossil localities are indicated by shading.
(in USDI-NPS, Park Resource Maps, August 1976)

After summarizing what constituted important fossil localities within and around the monument, Rensberger ranked 16 areas under four levels of priority for protection. He based them on the likelihood of resource loss without protection and the magnitude of that loss if it occurs. First priority in this scheme represented those localities which Rensberger judged to potentially contain the greatest amount of important, but unknown, paleontologic information. As might be expected given his survey findings in the first section, he emphasized protection of the Clarno and John Day formations because they contain the best preserved faunas of these age intervals (early Oligocene and Oligo-Miocene) on the west coast of North America. Of the 16 localities, ten fell outside monument boundaries. Although NPS planners could console themselves with three of the top four localities (Sheep Rock, Blue Basin, and Foree) being inside the park, Rensberger underlined the necessity of acquiring the Clarno Mammal Quarry by listing it first. [61]

As for measures to protect paleontologic resources, Rensberger began by stating that cattle grazing did not affect the rock exposures containing fossils. He cautioned against creation of large reservoirs for water storage because the increased humidity might extend vegetation to cover bare slopes, thus eventually burying fossils of the John Day Formation in soil. [62] In describing threats posed by public access, Rensberger thought the proximity of roads at Blue Basin and Foree might tempt visitors to try unauthorized collecting, though walking over the Big Basin Member of the John Day Formation could be equally as damaging to fossil resources. [63] He recommended limiting access to roads other than highways within the monument and locating trails away from fossil exposures. His report also identified localities which could be effectively patrolled from the highway or by foot, and discussed how to prevent impairment of fossil resources from the effects of weathering. The latter, he emphasized, had to be done proactively through professional collectors in conjunction with a carefully planned research design because valuable data could otherwise be lost. [64]

For much of the last half of his report, Rensberger formulated interpretive themes for each unit and tied them to relevant literature. He also reinforced his recommendations about protection by emphasizing how an active research program could provide interpretive data. Rensberger's concluding section on development weighed considerations about protection and interpretation in recommending where to site a visitor center. After reviewing a number of locations in the Sheep Rock and Painted Hills units, he saw Foree and Blue Basin as best suited for such a facility. [65]

Due to time constraints, Rensberger's paleontological information and recommendations served as virtually the only supporting material to the planning team's effort to further develop a statement for management. They drafted an introductory section in November 1975, but now had to articulate issues, problems, and objectives in more depth. To do this, they divided the introductory section into six parts: park purpose, significance of the monument's resources, land classification, influences on management, research needs, and management objectives. [66]

Since the authorizing legislation approved by Congress came without a statement of the park's purpose, planners had to generate one from the monument's legislative history and unapproved master plan drafts. All five bills referred to congressional committees from 1969 to 1973 included a sentence which authorized the Secretary of the Interior to establish the monument "to preserve and protect for the education, inspiration, and enjoyment of present and future generations a great number of flora and fauna fossils constituting a unique geological formation." [67] The Department of the Interior's report in 1973 drew from these bills when it stated that the monument is intended to "preserve, protect, and interpret the extensive tertiary fossils found in the geological formations of these areas." [68] The reference to "these areas" meant those lands within the boundaries of the three state parks and "other such areas as the Secretary [of the Interior] determines to be suitable for administration as part of the monument." [69]

Actual wording of the park's purpose evolved from statements in unapproved master plan drafts, beginning in January 1971:

"The primary purpose of this [park] proposal is to acknowledge, identify, interpret, and protect the paleontological and geological resources existing in this region. A secondary purpose is to provide public facilities which will promote and facilitate a concept of visitor use." [70]

By August 1971, this directive had been revised to state:

"The primary purpose of this proposal is to identify, interpret, and protect the geologic and paleontological resources of the Upper John Day Basin. A secondary purpose is to provide those public facilities that will provide and assist visitor use of the monument." [71]

This statement remained unchanged in the master plan drafts of June 1972 and April 1973. Wording that appeared in the statement for management in June 1976 reflected an emphasis in the new planning process on resource management and visitors:

"To identify, interpret, and protect the geologic, paleontological, natural, and cultural resources along the central and upper John Day River and to provide facilities that will promote and assist visitor recreational enjoyment and understanding of the same." [72]

According to the 1974 authorizing legislation, the NPS shall administer the monument consistent with its Organic Act of August 25, 1916, as supplemented and amended. The latter provides authority to manage the monument's natural and cultural resources, but is also a mandate to promote and regulate visitor use. Justification can be made for the investigation, study, and monitoring of resources which exhibit qualities of national significance on non-NPS lands, but interpretation and protection of resources located outside the monument's authorized boundaries is clouded by legal uncertainties. [73]

Even though planners derived three maps showing paleontological resources identified in Rensberger's report, their statement of significance in the introductory section to the Statement for Management (SFM) focused on testimonials and generalities about the upper basin. [74] They made fewer allusions to the monument's fossil resources in components of the SFM which centered on land classification, influences on management, and research needs. In the management objectives, however, planners listed preservation and study of the monument's plant and animal fossils first, though this did not necessarily imply priority over other objectives. [75]

The second part of the monument's SFM expanded on the management objectives by utilizing an environmental assessment format to present two general management alternatives for resources management and three options concerning visitor use. [76] With them, NPS officials hoped to elicit public views on issues and alternatives so that a draft general management plan could be formulated. Ladd reported that park staff contacted all interested groups in the local area on an informal basis prior to the public workshop held on the SFM and alternatives at Spray in July 1976. [77] Although the workshop greatly augmented completion of the SFM's introductory section, finalization of resource management and visitor use plans to support management objectives became dependent, to varying degrees, on research. [78]

A need for studies or surveys about different resource types became evident early in the planning process. Establishment of a cooperative park studies unit (CPSU) at Oregon State University (OSU) in 1974 greatly facilitated progress on research needs identified as common in both resource management alternatives because contracted studies could now be funneled largely through one entity. [79] The first project for John Day Fossil Beds aimed at producing an inventory of natural resources to support the SFM and associated alternatives. It appeared as a series of resource maps in August 1976 after the Denver Service Center provided printing and graphics services. [80] Concern about obtaining a starting point for comparisons between grazed and ungrazed areas, especially where this could impact threatened and endangered species, led to a plant inventory conducted during 1976. It identified 230 species, of which the investigators considered eight to be rare or threatened. [81] Another CPSU study combined what the SFM and alternatives identified as a need to study mule deer and coyotes in the Sheep Rock Unit. [82] Since the CPSU largely focused on natural resources, the NPS contracted separately for an archeological survey. It went to an investigator at OSU who completed his report on the monument's historic and prehistoric resources in 1977. [83]

NPS officials employed a combination of research and interpretive planning to support visitor use alternatives. They contracted with the CPSU to obtain management recommendations about potential visitor impact on nesting raptors. [84] The U.S. Geological Survey study of water supplies and flood hazards, however, had a greater impact on decisions concerning development. It pointed to the danger of cloudburst flooding at Clarno, thereby eliminating any consideration of camping at Indian Canyon in favor of a day-use picnic area. [85] A separate interpretive plan appeared in March 1978. It provided guidelines for design and content of a visitor center, interpretation at the Cant Ranch, and the location of wayside exhibits. Other components of the plan included a scope of collections statement, along with a short pronouncement about the creation of a park library as well as one concerning the encouragement of research to aid interpretation. [86]

Supported by an interpretive plan and most of the contracted studies, the draft GMP released for public review at the monument's dedication largely followed a format established by the SFM and associated alternatives in 1976. Now divided into four parts (statement for management, resource management, visitor use, and general development),the GMP corresponded to procedures delineated in the newly issued NPS Planning Process Guideline, also referred to as NPS-2. [87] This document formalized and prescribed what had been prototype planning at parks such as John Day Fossil Beds and directed that the plan's public review period be at least 30 days prior to approval by the regional director. [88]

The NPS received seven written comments on its draft GMP. Development of visitor facilities, especially those at Painted Hills, constituted the most popular subject. [89] Approval for the monument's GMP finally came in July 1979, largely because of changes in format and some rewrites in all four sections. [90] Some additional revision in the resource management section delayed the appearance of a final GMP until October 1979. [91]

Next> Legislated boundary changes

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Last Updated: 30-Apr-2002