Park planning is a decision-making process, and general management planning is the broadest level of decision making for national parks.
A general management plan (GMP) is required for each national park system unit and is intended to set the park’s management direction for the next 20 years. The general management plan for the Everglades National Park is coordinated by a core team of park staff and NPS planning professionals.
Planning in the national park system is organized around three primary questions:
1. WHY was this park established (defines the overall mission of the park)?
2. WHAT is the vision for the park (describes the kind of park we want it to be)? And
3. HOW do we accomplish our vision (the actions needed to achieve the desired conditions)?
Why Was This Park Established?
Answers to the WHY question form the foundation for the general management plan. The answers to this question are found in legislation and National Park Service (NPS) policy.
All concepts and actions in the plan must be consistent with this foundation. For Everglades National Park, the planning foundation began with statements of purpose and significance.
What Is the Vision for the Park?
Developing a vision that describes the park’s future (answering the WHAT question) is the primary role of the general management plan. It is in this step of the planning process that the planning team spends most of its time and where ideas and comments from the public are the most important. The management plan looks into the future and considers the park holistically, that is, in its full ecological and cultural context and as part of the surrounding region. Several possible visions for the park’s future (called alternatives) are developed and analyzed by the National Park Service and the public before a preferred direction is selected. Evaluating a range of alternatives allows for comparing and contrasting the advantages and disadvantages of one course of action over another and provides the sound approach to decision making required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
How Do We Accomplish Our Vision?
Most HOW questions are answered in future implementation plans. For example, the desired conditions to be achieved for the park’s natural and cultural resources will be described in the management plan, but specific actions to manage resources and achieve these conditions will be identified in resource management plans. Overall goals and conditions to be met by the park’s interpretive and educational programs will be established in the general management plan, but specific themes and required media or other facilities will be detailed in a comprehensive interpretive plan. Any current implementation plans for the park will be evaluated and revised as necessary to be consistent with the new management plan.
What Are the Major Steps?
Developing a general management plan involves several key steps occurring over a number of years. The initial phases of the project (Steps 1 and 2) – identify the scope and issues of the planning effort, setting goals, identifying obstacles to realizing those goals, and collecting data. In steps 3 and 4, alternatives to achieving these goals are developed. The relative benefits and impacts (including costs) of each approach are analyzed in an environmental impact statement (EIS) that is prepared as part of the general management plan (GMP). These alternatives and analyses are presented to the public for review. In the final steps, 2 after all parties have had an opportunity to comment on the alternatives and the analysis of associated impacts, one alternative is selected and approved for implementation.