The Clean Air Act and the National Park Service Organic Act protect air resources in national parks. Air quality affects park scenery and vistas, vegetation, water, and wildlife. Three Chihuahuan Desert Network parks are designated Class I areas under the Clean Air Act: Big Bend National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Air quality standards are stricter in these parks than in other network parks.
Park managers have little control over atmospheric conditions in the parks they manage because air quality conditions occur over broad scales. However, knowing the status and trends in air quality can help park managers make planning decisions, influence off-site emitters, and indirectly stabilize or improve park air resources. It can also help our Network understand changes in other vital signs.
Over the past three decades, the National Park Service has developed several internal and cooperative programs for monitoring various measures of air quality. Information on air quality at Chihuahuan Desert Network parks can be found by visiting the website of the National Park Service Air Resources Division.