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Cover to America's National Park Service: The Critical Documents
Cover Page


Table of Contents


The Early Years,

Defining The System,

The New Deal Years,

The Poverty Years,

Questions of
Resource Management

The Ecological Revolution,

Transformation and

A System Threatened,

Summaries of
Lengthy Documents

About the Editor

America's National Park System:
The Critical Documents
Chapter 6:
The Ecological Revolution: 1964 - 1969
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The Recreational Area Category of the National Park System includes a wide variety of areas having diverse resource values. In some of these areas, the natural or historical resource significance (seashores, scenic rivers) is the primary basis for their inclusion in the National Park System. In others, manmade features (reservoirs, parkways) are the central features for recreational use. Each characterization, of course, is at best only an approximation. For example, areas in which manmade features constitute the central recreation resources may also have significant natural and historical values. Moreover, areas known widely for their scenic splendor or unique features may likewise include significant manmade features.

In the management of recreation areas, outdoor recreational pursuits "shall be recognized as the dominant or primary resource objective." Managing an area to emphasize its recreational values, however, does not mean that its natural and historical values are to be ignored. On the contrary, management must provide for the conservation of natural or historical features when they are of such value as to enhance the recreational opportunities of the area.

Consistent with the recognition of outdoor recreation as the dominant resource management objective, other resources within recreation areas shall be managed for such additional uses as are compatible with fulfilling the recreation mission of the area. Such additional uses, in appropriate circumstances, may involve the management of forest lands on a sustained basis, mineral exploration and mineral leasing, grazing, etc.


A resources management plan will be prepared for each recreation area. It will be guided by the approved Master Plan, administrative policy, agreements with other agencies involving management of the area, and area legislation. The purpose of this plan is to spell out the details of resource management for public use and enjoyment.


Resource management programs will be based on adequate knowledge, obtained through appropriate investigation and research. Research is recognized as a tool of resource management and Service research activities will be mission oriented for achievement of resource management programs. Research by others will be encouraged in recreation areas for the increase and dissemination of knowledge.


The Service will strive to maintain quality of all waters
(1) originating within the boundaries of recreation areas through

(a) Provision of adequate sewage treatment and disposal for all public-use facilities, including self-contained boat sewage storage units;
(b) control of erosion;
(c) regulation and control, as necessary, of fuel-burning water craft;
(d) avoidance of contamination by lethal substances, such as certain insecticides;
(e) regulation of the intensity of use in certain areas and at certain times when determined as being necessary based on water quality monitoring;

and (2) flowing through or bounding on recreation areas

(a) by applying the methods listed under 1 (a) to (e) above; and
(b) by entering into cooperative agreements or compacts with other agencies and governing bodies for cooperative measures to avoid water pollution.


The Service will work with others within the regional air shed to reduce air pollution from sources within the area and elsewhere in the air shed. Fumes and smoke from campfires, refuse burning, and other kinds of combustion will be controlled in public-use areas to the extent necessary to maintain clean air.


Wastes generated within a recreation area may be disposed of within or outside the area so long as disposal does not (1) pollute water or air, (2) result in the defacement of public recreation areas, or (3) result in destruction or impairment of important natural or cultural resources.


Because of the wide variety of resource uses acceptable in recreation areas, active resource manipulation, such as management of habitat for fish and wildlife, agricultural uses, forest management, and maintenance of meadowlands, is required to achieve desired results. In these cases, however, effective management requires the application of sound ecological principles to permit the achievement and maintenance of the desired conditions.


Many recreation areas contain significant scenic or scientific resources. Scenic resources may or may not be due to the existence of completely natural conditions (i.e., a pastoral or mixed agricultural-natural scene may possess great scenic appeal based on the combination of features). Management of scenic areas will be governed accordingly. If significant scenic features are the result of natural conditions, they will be managed to retain these conditions, at the same time making appropriate recreational, interpretive, educational, and research use of them. If other than natural conditions are involved, management may perpetuate these cultural conditions involved.


Where significant cultural resources are present in a recreation area and are worthy of preservation of their historical value, they shall be protected and presented for public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment to the extent compatible with the primary purpose of the area. In such cases, the management and use of the cultural resources will be patterned after the management and use of similar resources in historical areas.


Programs will be conducted for the prevention and correction of erosion and soil or vegetation deterioration. A recreation area may participate in the program of a Grasslands Conservation District or Soil Conservation District when the purposes, plans, programs, and operation of the district are consistent with the purposes of the recreation area and the policies for its management and use.


Programs of landscape management may be carried out in recreation areas (except) as designated otherwise) for purposes of enhancing aesthetics generally which may include but not be limited to:

  1. Encouragement of certain species of plants.
  2. Increasing the ability of certain areas to absorb recreational use through vegetative management.
  3. Maintaining a certain state of plant succession.
  4. Retention of provision of open areas, meadows, vistas, etc., or the planting of open areas to trees or shrubs.
  5. Enhancement of roadside vegetation.
  6. Management of landscape for educational or interpretive purpose.
  7. Rearrangement as necessary of land contours, particularly in areas formerly denuded, mined, or excavated.


Exotic species of plants may be controlled, eradicated, or introduced into recreation areas as part of various management programs for purposes of public recreational use and enjoyment except that no species, particularly those new to the country or region, may be introduced unless there are reasonable assurances from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and responsible State agencies that the species will not become a pest or disrupt desirable natural plant and animal communities and associations of particular scenic significance.


The presence or absence of natural fire within a given habitat is recognized as one of the ecological factors contributing to the perpetuation of plants and animals native to that habitat.

Fires in vegetation resulting from natural causes are recognized as natural phenomena and may be allowed to run their course when such burning can be contained within predetermined fire management units and such burning will contribute to the accomplishment of approved vegetation and/or wildlife management objectives.

Prescribed burning to achieve approved vegetation and/or wildlife management objectives may be employed as a substitute for natural fire.


Any fire threatening cultural resources or physical facilities of a recreation area or any fire burning within a recreation area and posing a threat to any resources or physical facilities outside that area will be controlled and extinguished.

The Service will cooperate in programs to control or extinguish any fire originating on lands adjacent to a recreation area and posing a threat to natural or cultural resources or physical facilities of that area.

Any fire in a recreation area other than one employed in the management of vegetation and/or wildlife of that area will be controlled and extinguished.


Agricultural uses, such as demonstration farms, and grazing and raising of domestic livestock, may be permitted when they contribute to maintaining a desired condition or scene; contribute to visitor use and enjoyment in terms of recreation, interpretation, and education; or, do not impair significant scientific, scenic, and cultural resources that contribute to the recreational opportunities of the area.


Harvesting of timber, in accordance with sound forest management principles, is permitted in recreation areas where compatible with fulfilling the area's recreation mission or is not significantly detrimental to it. In recreation areas, resources management plans will be prepared on the basis of identifying a primary zone and a secondary zone for recreation.

In the primary zone, forest management will consist mostly of removing timber and utilizing the logs commercially in the following circumstances:

  1. Salvage of hazardous trees in public-use areas or trees with insect or disease infestation that cannot otherwise be controlled which endanger adjacent healthy plants.
  2. Salvage of blowdown or fire-killed timber which might precipitate insect outbreaks or create serious fire hazards.
  3. Harvesting of timber for vista clearing and similar cultural treatment along roads, parking areas, lakeshores, and developed sites, keeping in mind the scenic, aesthetic, and ecological considerations.
  4. Selective harvesting of timber in development and maintenance of recreational sites such as roads, trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, boat ramps, winter use areas, and visitor centers, as well as maintenance, residential, and administrative sites. The removal of timber in the foregoing situations is incidental to the more important job of facilitating management of the area for recreational use as the dominant purpose of the area.

In the secondary zone where less intensive recreational activities, such as public recreational hunting and back-country trail use, are prevalent, forest utilization shall consist of:

  1. Removal of trees when desirable to enhance the wildlife resource for public recreational hunting; and
  2. Harvesting of timber pursuant to the best forest management practices in other designated areas to maintain a dynamic, healthy forest when harvesting will promote or is compatible with, or does not significantly impair, public recreation and conservation of the scenic, scientific, historic, or other values contributing to public enjoyment.

Moreover, the programs mentioned above for the primary zones may also be applicable in the secondary zone in connection with trail construction, vista clearing, etc.


Mineral prospecting and the extraction of minerals or the removal of soil, sand, gravel, and rock may be authorized by permit issued pursuant to applicable regulations, where such use will promote or is compatible with, and does not significantly impair public recreation and the conservation of scenic, scientific, historic, or other values contributing to public enjoyment. As a specific example, such activities might be carried out in reservoir areas below the conservation pool prior to flooding. Where combined with adequate controls over depths, contours, etc., surface removal of material may also serve for landscape enhancement, fish and wildlife management, or otherwise further the purpose of the recreation area.


To achieve the purpose of a recreation area, planning and management should be related to the total environment in which the area is located. Such planning and management recognize the need for transportation arteries; utility and communication corridors; consumptive resource uses; and residential, commercial, and recreation land uses inside and within the vicinity of the area as parts of a systematic plan assuring viability and good health of the area and the surrounding region.

The Service should be alert to peripheral use and development proposals that impinge on the environment of a recreation area. Moreover, it should cooperate with and encourage joint and regional planning among public agencies, organizations, and individuals having responsibility for maintaining the quality and aesthetics of the environment surrounding recreation areas.


Control operations of native insects and diseases will be limited to (1) outbreaks threatening to eliminate the host from the ecosystem or posing a direct threat to resources outside the area; (2) preservation of scenic values; (3) preservation of rare or scientifically valuable specimens or communities; (4) maintenance of shade trees in developed areas; and (5) preservation of historic scenes. Where non-native insects or diseases have become established or threaten invasion of a recreation area, an appropriate management plan will be developed to control or eradicate them when feasible.

National Park Service, Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1968, 17-22.

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Last Modified: October 25, 2000 10:00:00 am PST

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