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Park Planning with Science and GIS

Colorado NM
Jennifer McCollom
Park Planning with Science and GIS

Colorado National Monument was established in 1911 to preserve its geologic uniqueness. A recently completed scientific geologic study of the monument’s geology by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is providing insight for the monument’s planners in preserving this important resource. The comprehensive geologic database resulting from the scientific study is just one example of the ongoing cooperation between the National Park Service and the USGS. Current planning at Colorado National Monument includes a National Park Service Draft General Management Plan (GMP) for the Monument. The final GMP will help guide staff decision-making over the next 20 years. Important components of the GMP are proposed management prescription maps illustrating prescribed areas where different management objectives are identified. These maps are being derived utilizing the new digital geologic data and other data in the monument’s existing GIS database.

To better account for the park’s unique geologic character within the planning effort, the geology was grouped into units called resource areas. The accompanying graphic illustrates the creation of this GIS dataset named “Significant Resource Areas.” The resource areas are drawn directly from the geological units by grouping the rock layers by their dominant landforms. The “Mesa Top” resource area contains rock layers that make up the top sections of the mesas and provides a viewing experience for the visitor. The “Canyon” resource areas are rock layers yielding more easily to the forces of time and water and provide a more temperate habitat. The “Black Ridge” resource area represents the highest elevations of the monument and adjacent land. The rocks layers are a resistant limestone known for dinosaur fossils and include a popular hiking trail. The “Below Bench” resource area includes the lowest areas of the monument with rock types extending east into the large valley outside of the monument and provides easier visitor access and hiking trails. Lastly, the “Developed” resource areas were created from different rock layers disturbed or improved upon for park visitor facilities.

The new dataset, “Significant Resource Areas” is utilized along with other monument GIS data to derive the draft proposed management prescription alternatives. Additional information considered includes the monument's topography, locations of historic structures, adjacent land management, and adjacent land development. After analyzing data within the GIS, the derived proposed management alternatives become part of the GIS database. This allows monument staff and planners a way to directly compare and contrast their proposed alternatives with relative area calculations for prescription types.

Online link to the USGS Colorado National Monument GIS study & digital data:

All other GIS data shown in the graphic is not published, but does have accompanying FGDC compliant metadata. Finalized GIS data and metadata will be made publicly available once the Colorado National Monument General Management Plan is completed and published.
April 08, 2004