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Nat'l Rec. Areas

New Nat'l Parks


Wildlife Management in the National Parks

Policies of park management

The major policy change which we would recommend to the National Park Service is that it recognize the enormous complexity of ecologic communities and the diversity of management procedures required to preserve them. The traditional, simple formula of protection may be exactly what is needed to maintain such climax associations as arctic-alpine heath, the rain forests of Olympic peninsula, or the Joshua trees and saguaros of southwestern deserts. On the other hand, grasslands, savannas, aspen, and other successional shrub and tree associations may call for very different treatment. Reluctance to undertake biotic management can never lead to a realistic presentation of primitive America, much of which supported successional communities that were maintained by fires, floods, hurricanes, and other natural forces.

A second statement of policy that we would reiterate -- and this one conforms with present Park Service standards -- is that management be limited to native plants and animals. Exotics have intruded into nearly all of the parks but they need not be encouraged, even those that have interest or ecologic values of their own. Restoration of antelope in Jackson Hole, for example, should be done by managing native forage plants, not by planting crested wheat grass or plots of irrigated alfalfa. Gambel quail in a desert wash should be observed in the shade of a mesquite, not a tamarisk. A visitor who climbs a volcano in Hawaii ought to see mamane trees and silver-swords, not goats.

Carrying this point further, observable artificiality in any form must be minimized and obscured in every possible way. Wildlife should not be displayed in fenced enclosures; this is the function of a zoo, not a national park. In the same category is artificial feeding of wildlife. Fed bears become bums, and dangerous, Fed elk deplete natural ranges. Forage relationships in wild animals should be natural. Management may at times call for the use of the tractor, chain-saw, rifle, or flamethrower but the signs and sounds of such activity should be hidden from visitors insofar as possible. In this regard, perhaps the most dangerous tool of all is the roadgrader. Although the American public demands automotive access to the parks, road systems must be rigidly prescribed as to extent and design. Roadless wilderness areas should be permanently zoned. The goal, we repeat, is to maintain or create the mood of wild America. We are speaking here of restoring wildlife to enhance this mood, but the whole effect can be lost if the parks are overdeveloped for motorized travel. If too many tourists crowd the roadways, then we should ration the tourists rather than expand the roadways.

Additionally in this connection, it seems incongruous that there should exist in the national parks mass recreation facilities such as golf courses, ski lifts, motorboat marinas, and other extraneous developments which completely contradict the management goal. We urge the National Park Service to reverse its policy of permitting these nonconforming uses, and to liquidate them as expeditiously as possible (painful as this will be to concessionaires). Above all other policies, the maintenance of naturalness should prevail.

Another major policy matter concerns the research which must form the basis for all management programs. The agency best fitted to study park management problems is the National Park Service itself. Much help and guidance can be obtained from ecologic research conducted by other agencies, but the objectives of park management are so different from those of state fish and game departments, the Forest Service, etc., as to demand highly skilled studies of a very specialized nature. Management without knowledge would be a dangerous policy indeed. Most of the research now conducted by the National Park Service is oriented largely to interpretive functions rather than to management. We urge the expansion of the research activity in the Service to prepare for future management and restoration programs. As models of the type of investigation that should be greatly accelerated we cite some of the recent studies of elk in Yellowstone and of bighorn sheep in Death Valley. Additionally, however, there are needed equally critical appraisals of ecologic relationships in various plant associations and of many lesser organisms such as azaleas, lupines, chipmunks, towhees, and other non-economic species.

In consonance with the above policy statements, it follows logically that every phase of management itself be under the full jurisdiction of biologically trained personnel of the Park Service. This applies not only to habitat manipulation but to all facets of regulating animal populations. Reducing the numbers of elk in Yellowstone or of goats on Haleakala Crater is part of an overall scheme to preserve or restore a natural biotic scene. The purpose is single-minded. We cannot endorse the view that responsibility for removing excess game animals be shared with state fish and game departments whose primary interest would be to capitalize on the recreational value of the public hunting that could thus be supplied. Such a proposal imputes a multiple use concept of park management which was never intended, which is not legally permitted, nor for which can we find any impelling justification today.

Purely from the standpoint of how best to achieve the goal of park management, as here defined, unilateral administration directed to a single objective is obviously superior to divided responsibility in which secondary goals, such as recreational hunting, are introduced. Additionally, uncontrolled public hunting might well operate in opposition to the goal, by removing roadside animals and frightening the survivors, to the end that public viewing of wildlife would be materially impaired. In one national park, namely Grand Teton, public hunting was specified by Congress as the method to be used in controlling elk. Extended trial suggests this to be an awkward administrative tool at best.

Since this whole matter is of particular current interest it will be elaborated in a subsequent section on methods.


Last Modified: Wed, Dec 29 1999 07:08:48 am PDT

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