Both the Clean Air Act and the National Park Service (NPS) Organic Act protect air resources in national parks. Understanding changes in air quality can aid in interpreting changes in other monitored vital signs. The Southern Plains Network (SOPN) has identified several components of air quality as high-priority vital signs for monitoring. Over the past three decades, the NPS has developed several internal and cooperative programs for monitoring various measures of air quality. These programs are currently monitoring air quality at five SOPN parks. The SOPN will acquire, archive, and analyze data from existing stations, and report on data specific to park units.
Most field collection of air quality samples and data is automated. In addition to equipment maintenance activities, field operations consist of sample collection by park staff. In addition, data are acquired from the web-based program archives of four ongoing air quality monitoring programs: the Clean Air Status and Trends Network (CASTNET), the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), the National Park Service Air Resources Division continuous ozone monitoring program, and the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) Program. A GIS tool developed by the NPS Air Resources Division called Air Atlas can be used to provide estimates of air quality condition for park units with no monitoring stations in usable range.
Network Park Units Where Monitoring Occurs
Air quality monitoring is done in seven parks within the Southern Plains Network. These parks are listed below.
- Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
- Capulin Volcano National Monument
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area
- Fort Larned National Historic Site
- Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park
- Pecos National Historic Park
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site