On-line Book
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
National Park Service Arrowhead




The preservation of natural areas is a fundamental requirement for their continued use and enjoyment as unimpaired natural areas. Park management, therefore, looks first to the care and management of the natural resources of a park. The concept of preservation of a total environment, as compared with the protection of an individual feature or species, is a distinguishing feature of national park management.

In earlier times, the establishment of a park and the protection of its forests and wildlife from careless disturbance were sufficient to insure its preservation as a natural area. The impact of man on the natural scene was negligible since the parks were surrounded by vast undeveloped lands, and there were comparatively few visitors. This condition prevails no more, for the parks are fast becoming islands of primitive America, increasingly influenced by resource use practices around their borders, and by the impact of increasing millions of visitors.

Passive protection is not enough. Active management of the natural environment, plus a sensitive application of discipline in park planning, use, and development, are requirements for today.

The resource management task thus embraces:

  1. 1. Safeguarding forests, wildlife, and natural features against impairment or destruction.
  2. The application of ecological management techniques to neutralize the unnatural influences of man, thus permitting the natural environment to be maintained essentially by nature.
  3. Master planning for the appropriate allocation of lands to various purposes in a park, and in the character and location of use areas as needed for developments.


Natural areas shall be managed so as to conserve, perpetuate, and portray as a composite whole the indigenous aquatic and terrestrial fauna and flora and the scenic landscape.

Management will minimize, give direction to, or control those changes in the native environment and scenic landscape resulting from human influences on natural processes of ecological succession. Missing native life forms may be reestablished, where practicable.

Native environment complexes will be restored, protected, and maintained, where practicable, at levels determined through historical and ecological research of plant-animal relationships. Non-native species may not be introduced into natural areas. Where they have become established or threaten invasion of a natural area, an appropriate management plan should be developed to control them, where feasible.

Commercial harvesting of timber is not permitted except where the cutting of timber "is required in order to control the attacks of insects or diseases or otherwise to conserve the scenery or the natural or historic objects" in a natural area, such as in the case of severe "blow-downs."


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 when 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 natural area or any fire burning within a natural 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 natural area posing a threat to natural or cultural resources or physical facilities of that area.

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


Domestic livestock grazing competes with native wildlife and impedes the effort in natural areas to achieve an ecological balance.

Accordingly, grazing of domestic livestock in natural areas is permitted only where it is sanctioned by law, incidental to visitor use, or is desirable to preserve and interpret significant historical resources of the area. Where grazing has been permitted and its continuation is not specifically covered by the aforestated conditions, it should be eliminated through orderly and cooperative procedures with the individuals concerned. Support of Service or concessioner pack-and-saddle stock by the use of forage in a natural area shall be limited to locations where dry feeding is clearly impracticable.


Agricultural uses, including domestic livestock raising, may be permitted in natural areas only where they are desirable to perpetuate and interpret significant historical resources, are permitted by law, or are required pursuant to acquisition agreements or similar documents.


Refuse generated from operations within a natural area shall be disposed of by approved methods outside the area, where practicable and feasible. Refuse disposal within the area, where necessary, shall be accomplished by incineration or sanitary landfill, or through modification of these methods, as appropriate.


Public use of motor vehicles shall be confined to designated park roads or other designated overland routes exclusive of foot trails and bridle trails. Public use of portable power equipment, such as generators and powersaws, may be permitted in specifically designated areas.

The off-road use of motorized equipment for official purposes shall be carefully planned and controlled to meet the requirements of area management with due regard for the protection of human life and park resources.


Where significant cultural resources are present in a natural area and are worthy of preservation for 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 resulting from unnatural causes.

A natural 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 natural area and the policies for its management and use.


To achieve the purpose of a natural area, i.e., preservation and appropriate public use, 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 in the environs of the park as parts of a systematic plan assuring viability and good health of the park and the surrounding region.

The Service should be alert to peripheral use and development proposals that impinge on the environment of a natural 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 esthetics of the environment surrounding natural areas.


When consistent with and not materially disruptive of the maintenance of natural ecological associations of the area, landscape management will be practiced to erase, ameliorate, or conceal the scars and visual impact of structures, facilities, and construction activities related thereto which impinge on the natural scene.


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

(a) by applying the methods listed under l(a) to (e) above;
(b) consistent with the purposes of the natural area and the policies for its management and use 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.


Except where authorized by law or when carried on pursuant to valid existing rights or as part of an interpretive program, mineral prospecting, mining, and the extraction of minerals or the removal of soil, sand, gravel, and rock will not be permitted.


Native forest insects and diseases existing under natural conditions are natural elements of the ecosystem. Accordingly, populations of native insects and the incidence of native diseases will be allowed to function unimpeded, except when control is required (1) to prevent the loss of the host from the ecosystem; (2) to prevent the complete alteration of an environment which is expected to be preserved; (3) to prevent outbreaks of the insect or disease from spreading to forests or trees outside the area; (4) to preserve rare, scientifically valuable, or specimen trees, or unique forest communities; (5) to maintain a suitable overstory, shade, or ornamental trees of Class I and II lands; and (6) to preserve trees significant to the maintenance of historical integrity of Class VI sites.

Where non-native insects or diseases have become established or threaten to invade a natural area, appropriate measures will be taken to control or eradicate them where feasible.

No insect or disease control activities may be undertaken in wilderness areas without the approval of the Director.

Any controls instituted will be those which will be most direct for the target insect or disease and which will have minimal effect upon other components of the ecosystem.


To the extent possible, the physical natural resources in a natural area shall be maintained in a natural state for their inherent educational, scientific, and inspirational values, and as a medium for supporting the diversity and the continuation of life processes.

National Park Service, Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1968, 16-21.

NEXT>Plan for Use of Fire in Ecosystem Management, 1968


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

National Park Service's ParkNet Home