4   Natural Resource Management


The National Park Service will preserve and protect the natural resources, processes, systems, and values of units of the national park system in an unimpaired condition to perpetuate their inherent integrity and to provide present and future generations with the opportunity to enjoy them.



The National Park Service will strive to understand, maintain, restore, and protect the inherent integrity of the natural resources, processes, systems, and values of the parks while providing meaningful and appropriate opportunities to enjoy them. The Service recognizes that natural processes and species are evolving, and the Service will allow this evolution to continue—minimally influenced by human actions. The natural resources, processes, systems, and values that the Service preserves are described generally in the 1916 NPS Organic Act and in the enabling legislation or presidential proclamation establishing each park. They are described in greater detail in management plans specific to each park. Natural resources, processes, systems, and values found in parks include


·         physical resources such as water, air, soils, topographic features, geologic features, paleontological resources, and natural soundscapes and clear skies, both during the day and at night

·         physical processes such as weather, erosion, cave formation, and wildland fire

·         biological resources such as native plants, animals, and communities

·         biological processes such as photosynthesis, succession, and evolution

·         ecosystems

·         highly valued associated characteristics such as scenic views


In this chapter, natural resources, processes, systems, and values are all included in the term “natural resources.” The term “natural condition” is used here to describe the condition of resources that would occur in the absence of human dominance over the landscape.


The Service manages the natural resources of parks to maintain them in an unimpaired condition for present and future generations in accordance with NPS-specific statutes, including the NPS Organic Act and the National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998; general environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Wilderness Act; executive orders; and applicable regulations.


Activities that take place outside park boundaries and that are not managed by the Service can profoundly affect the Service’s ability to protect natural resources inside the parks. The Service will act to protect natural resources from impacts caused by external activities by working cooperatively with federal, state, and local agencies; tribal authorities; user groups; adjacent landowners; and others to identify and achieve broad natural resource goals. By working cooperatively through both formal and informal lines of communication and consultation, the Service will better achieve park management objectives and the protection of parks’ natural resources.


(See Park Management 1.4; Cooperative Conservation Beyond Park Boundaries 1.6; Partnerships 4.1.4)


4.1  General Management Concepts


As explained in chapter 1 of these Management Policies, preserving park resources and values unimpaired is the core or primary responsibility of NPS managers. The Service cannot conduct or allow activities in parks that would impact park resources and values to a level that would constitute impairment. To comply with this mandate, park managers must determine in writing whether proposed activities in parks would impair natural resources. Park managers must also take action to ensure that ongoing NPS activities do not cause the impairment of park natural resources. In cases of uncertainty as to the impacts of activities on park natural resources, the protection of natural resources will predominate.  The Service will reduce such uncertainty by facilitating and building a science-based understanding of park resources and the nature and extent of the impacts involved.


Natural resources will be managed to preserve fundamental physical and biological processes, as well as individual species, features, and plant and animal communities. The Service will not attempt to solely preserve individual species (except threatened or endangered species) or individual natural processes; rather, it will try to maintain all the components and processes of naturally evolving park ecosystems, including the natural abundance, diversity, and genetic and ecological integrity of the plant and animal species native to those ecosystems. Just as all components of a natural system will be recognized as important, natural change will also be recognized as an integral part of the functioning of natural systems. By preserving these components and processes in their natural condition, the Service will prevent resource degradation and therefore avoid any subsequent need for resource restoration. In managing parks to preserve naturally evolving ecosystems, and in accordance with requirements of the National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998, the Service will use the findings of science and the analyses of scientifically trained resource specialists in decision-making.


Park units with significant natural resources range in size from just a few acres to millions of acres and from urban to remote and wilderness settings. As integral parts of a national park system, these park units individually and cumulatively contribute to America’s natural heritage and provide the places where that heritage can be better understood and enjoyed.


Science has demonstrated that few if any park units can fully realize or maintain their physical and biological integrity if managed as biogeographic islands. Instead, park units must be managed in the context of their larger ecosystems.  The ecosystem context for some species and processes may be relatively small, while for others this context is vast.  In any case, superintendents face the challenge of placing each of the resources they protect in their appropriate ecosystem context and then working with all involved and affected parties to advance their shared conservation goals and avoid adverse impacts on these resources.


Superintendents must be mindful of the setting in which they undertake the protection of park resources.  The practicability of achieving a natural soundscape may be quite reasonable at a park unit in a remote setting, but the same may not be true at a popular roadside viewpoint in the same park unit, or at a park unit in a more urban locale.  Similarly, the restoration and maintenance of natural fire regimes can advance more rapidly and on a larger landscape scale in wilderness areas where considerations for public safety and the protection of private property and physical developments can usually be readily addressed. However, the restoration and maintenance of natural fire regimes in more developed and highly visited locations with the same considerations can be extremely complicated.  The goal of protecting natural resources and values while providing for their enjoyment remains the same in all cases except to the extent that Congress has directly and specifically provided otherwise.  The degree to which a park can adequately restore and maintain its natural resources to a desired condition will depend on a variety of factors—such as size, past management events, surrounding land uses, and the availability of resources.  Through its planning processes, the Park Service will determine the desired future conditions for each park unit and identify a strategy to achieve them.  This strategy should include working cooperatively with adjacent land and resource managers, as appropriate.


The Service will not intervene in natural biological or physical processes, except


·         when directed by Congress;

·         in emergencies in which human life and property are at stake;

·         to restore natural ecosystem functioning that has been disrupted by past or ongoing human activities; or

·         when a park plan has identified the intervention as necessary to protect other park resources, human health and safety, or facilities.


Any such intervention will be kept to the minimum necessary to achieve the stated management objectives.


Natural systems in the national park system, and the human influences upon them, will be monitored to detect change. The Service will evaluate possible causes and effects of changes that might cause impacts on park resources and values. The Service will use the results of monitoring and research to understand the detected change and to develop appropriate management actions.


Biological or physical processes altered in the past by human activities may need to be actively managed to restore them to a natural condition or to maintain the closest approximation of the natural condition when a truly natural system is no longer attainable. Prescribed burning and the control of ungulates when predators have been extirpated are two examples. Decisions about the extent and degree of management actions taken to protect or restore park ecosystems or their components will be based on clearly articulated, well-supported management objectives and the best scientific information available.


There may be situations in which an area may be closed to visitor use to protect the natural resources (for example, during an animal breeding season) or for reasons of public safety (for example, during a wildland fire). Such closures may be accomplished under the superintendent’s discretionary authority and will comply with applicable regulations (36 CFR 1.5 and 1.7).


(See The Prohibition on Impairment of Park Resources and Values 1.4.4; Environmental Leadership 1.8; General Management Planning 2.3.1; Facility Planning and Design 9.1.1.  Also see Director’s Order #11B: Ensuring Quality of Information Disseminated by the NPS; Director’s Order #75A: Civic Engagement and Public Involvement)


4.1.1  Planning for Natural Resource Management

Each park with a significant natural resource base (as exemplified by participation in the Vital Signs component of the Natural Resource Challenge) will prepare and periodically update a long-range (looking at least one to two decades ahead) comprehensive strategy for natural resource management. This long-range strategy will describe the comprehensive program of activities needed to achieve the desired future conditions for the park’s natural resources. It will integrate the best available science and prescribe activities such as inventories, research, monitoring, restoration, mitigation, protection, education, and management of resource uses. The strategy will also describe the natural-resource-related activities needed to achieve desired future conditions for cultural resources (such as historic landscapes) and visitor enjoyment.


Similarly, planning for park operations, development, and management activities that might affect natural resources will be guided by high-quality, scientifically acceptable information, data, and impact assessment. Where existing information is inadequate, the collection of new information and data may be required before decision-making. Long-term research or monitoring may also be necessary to correctly understand the effects of management actions on natural resources whose function and significance are not clearly understood.


(See Decision-making Requirements to Identify and Avoid Impairments 1.4.7; General Management Planning 2.3.1; Land Protection Plans 3.3; NPS-conducted or -sponsored Inventory, Monitoring, and Research Studies 4.2.1; Cultural Landscapes; Chapter 8: Use of the Parks; Chapter 9: Park Facilities. Also see 516 DM 4.16—Adaptive Management)


4.1.2  Natural Resource Information

Information about natural resources that is collected and developed will be maintained for as long as it is possible to do so. All forms of information collected through inventorying, monitoring, research, assessment, traditional knowledge, and management actions will be managed to professional NPS archival and library standards.


Most information about park natural resources will be made broadly available to park employees, the scientific community, and the public. Pursuant to provisions of the National Parks Omnibus Management Act, the Service will withhold information about the nature and specific location of sensitive park natural resources—specifically caves and mineral, paleontological, endangered, threatened, rare, or commercially valuable resources— unless the Service determines, in writing, that disclosure of the information would further the purposes of the park; would not create an unreasonable risk of harm, theft, or destruction of resources; and would be consistent with other applicable laws.


Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Park Service may be able to withhold sensitive natural resource data and information that is used in ongoing law enforcement investigations or subject to national security clearance classification. The Service may be able to withhold data provided through interim project reporting, pending the completion of relevant projects and the receipt of final project reports, as specified in approved scientific research and collecting permits and associated research proposals if the release of information will cause foreseeable harm to the NPS interests. Information that is made available to the public (that is, not withheld under the Freedom of Information Act or other laws) will remain searchable and accessible under the professional and NPS archival and library standards.


(See Information Confidentiality; Confidentiality 5.2.3; Interpretive and Educational Programs 7.1. Also see Director’s Order #66: FOIA and Protected Resource Information; Museum Handbook 24-Part II)


4.1.3  Evaluating Impacts on Natural Resources

Planning, environmental evaluation, and civic engagement regarding management actions that may affect the natural resources of the national park system are essential for carrying out the Service’s responsibilities to present and future generations. The Service will ensure that the environmental costs and benefits of proposed operations, development, and resource management are fully and openly evaluated before taking actions that may impact the natural resources of parks. This evaluation must include appropriate participation by the public; the application of scholarly, scientific, and technical information in the planning, evaluation, and decision-making processes; the use of NPS knowledge and expertise through interdisciplinary teams and processes; and the full incorporation of mitigation measures, pollution prevention techniques, and other principles of sustainable park management.


Every environmental assessment and environmental impact statement produced by the Service will include an analysis of whether the impacts of a proposed activity constitute impairment of park natural resources and values. Every finding of no significant impact, record of decision, and National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 memorandum of agreement signed by the Park Service will contain a discrete certification that the impacts of the proposed activity will not impair park natural resources and values.   


(See Park Management 1.4; Implementation Planning 2.3.4; NPS-conducted or -sponsored Inventory, Monitoring, and Research Studies 4.2.1. Also see Director’s Order #12: Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis, and Decision-making)


4.1.4  Partnerships

The Service will pursue opportunities to improve natural resource management within parks and across administrative boundaries by pursuing cooperative conservation with public agencies, appropriate representatives of American Indian tribes and other traditionally associated peoples, and private landowners in accordance with Executive Order 13352 (Facilitation of Cooperative Conservation). The Service recognizes that cooperation with other land and resource managers can accomplish ecosystem stability and other resource management objectives when the best efforts of a single manager might fail. Therefore, the Service will develop agreements with federal, tribal, state, and local governments and organizations; foreign governments and organizations; and private landowners, when appropriate, to coordinate plant, animal, water, and other natural resource management activities in ways that maintain and protect park resources and values. Such cooperation may include park restoration activities, research on park natural resources, and the management of species harvested in parks. Cooperation also may involve coordinating management activities in two or more separate areas, integrating management practices to reduce conflicts, coordinating research, sharing data and expertise, exchanging native biological resources for species management or ecosystem restoration purposes, establishing native wildlife corridors, and providing essential habitats adjacent to or across park boundaries.


In addition, the Service will seek the cooperation of others in minimizing the impacts of influences originating outside parks by controlling noise and artificial lighting, maintaining water quality and quantity, eliminating toxic substances, preserving scenic views, improving air quality, preserving wetlands, protecting threatened or endangered species, eliminating exotic species, managing the use of pesticides, protecting shoreline processes, managing fires, managing boundary influences, and using other means of preserving and protecting natural resources.


(See Cooperative Conservation Beyond Park Boundaries 1.6; Partnerships 1.10; Cooperative Conservation 3.4; Agreements 5.2.2)


4.1.5  Restoration of Natural Systems

The Service will reestablish natural functions and processes in parks unless otherwise directed by Congress. Landscapes disturbed by natural phenomena, such as landslides, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires, will be allowed to recover naturally unless manipulation is necessary to protect other park resources, developments, or employee and public safety. Impacts on natural systems resulting from human disturbances include the introduction of exotic species; the contamination of air, water, and soil; changes to hydrologic patterns and sediment transport; the acceleration of erosion and sedimentation; and the disruption of natural processes. The Service will seek to return such disturbed areas to the natural conditions and processes characteristic of the ecological zone in which the damaged resources are situated. The Service will use the best available technology, within available resources, to restore the biological and physical components of these systems, accelerating both their recovery and the recovery of landscape and biological community structure and function. Efforts may include, for example


·         removal of exotic species

·         removal of contaminants and nonhistoric structures or facilities

·         restoration of abandoned mineral lands, abandoned or unauthorized roads, areas overgrazed by domestic animals, or disrupted natural waterways and/or shoreline processes

·         restoration of areas disturbed by NPS administrative, management, or development activities (such as hazard tree removal, construction, or sand and gravel extraction) or by public use

·         restoration of natural soundscapes

·         restoration of native plants and animals

·         restoration of natural visibility


When park development/facilities are damaged or destroyed and replacement is necessary, the development will be replaced or relocated to promote the restoration of natural resources and processes.


(See Decision-making Requirements to Identify and Avoid Impairments 1.4.7; Restoration of Native Plant and Animal Species; Management of Natural Landscapes; Siting Facilities to Avoid Natural Hazards Also see Director’s Order #18: Wildland Fire Management)


4.1.6  Compensation for Injuries to Natural Resources

The Service will use all legal authorities that are available to protect and restore natural resources and the environmental benefits they provide when actions of another party cause the destruction or loss of, or injury to, park resources or values. As a first step, damage assessments provide the basis for determining the restoration and compensation needs that address the public’s loss and are a key milestone toward the ultimate goal, which is restoration, replacement, and/or reclamation of resources for the American public. Pursuant to applicable provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980; the Oil Pollution Act of 1990; the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (as amended by the Clean Water Act of 1977); and the National Park System Resource Protection Act, the Service will


·         determine the injury caused to natural resources, assess all appropriate damages, and monitor damages;

·         seek to recover all appropriate costs associated with responses to such actions and the costs of assessing resource damages, including the direct and indirect costs of response, restoration, and monitoring activities; and

·         use all sums recovered in compensation for resource injuries to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of the resources that were the subject of the action.


(See Compensation for Injuries to Cultural Resources Also see Director’s Order #14: Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration)


4.2  Studies and Collections


The Service will encourage appropriately reviewed natural resource studies whenever such studies are consistent with applicable laws and policies. These studies support the NPS mission by providing the Service, the scientific community, and the public with an understanding of park resources, processes, values, and uses that will be cumulative and constantly refined. This approach will provide a scientific and scholarly basis for park planning, development, operations, management, education, and interpretive activities.


As used here, the term studies means short- or long-term scientific or scholarly investigations or educational activities that may involve natural resource surveys, inventories, monitoring, and research, including data and specimen collection. Studies include projects conducted by researchers and scholars in universities, foundations and other institutions; tribal colleges and organizations; other federal, tribal, and state agencies; and NPS staff. The data and information acquired through studies conducted in parks will be made publicly available, consistent with section 4.1.2, and will be obtained and disseminated in accordance with the standards found in Director’s Order #11B: Ensuring Quality of Information Disseminated by the NPS.  


The Service will promote cooperative relationships with educational and scientific institutions and qualified individuals when that relationship can assist the Service in obtaining information and when the opportunity for research and study in the parks offers the cooperators a significant benefit to their programs. NPS facilities and assistance may be made available to qualified cooperators who are conducting NPS-authorized studies.


Studies in parks will be preceded by (1) an approved scope of work, proposal, or other detailed written description of the work to be performed; and (2) a written statement of environmental and cultural resource compliance appropriate to the proposed methodology and study site. All studies in parks will employ nondestructive methods to the maximum extent feasible with respect to resource protection, research methodology, and the scientific and management value of the information and collections to be obtained. Although studies involving physical impacts to park resources or the removal of objects or specimens may be permitted, studies and collecting activities that will lead to the impairment of park resources and values are prohibited.


Scientific natural resource collecting activities are governed by 36 CFR 2.5. A very limited number of other types of natural resource collecting are governed by 36 CFR 2.1. In most cases, only small quantities may be collected. The repeated collection of materials to ensure a continuing source of supply for research or propagation is prohibited unless the proposed activity clearly requires repeated collection, as might be the case with a monitoring or park restoration program.


(See Decision-making Requirements to Identify and Avoid Impairments 1.4.7; Managing Information 1.9.2; Research 5.1; Resource Access and Use; Collecting Natural Products 8.8; Consumptive Uses 8.9; Social Science Studies 8.11. Also see Director’s Order #28B: Ethnography Program; Director’s Order #74: Studies and Collecting; Director’s Order #78: Social Science)


4.2.1  NPS-conducted or -sponsored Inventory, Monitoring, and Research Studies

The Service will


·         identify, acquire, and interpret needed inventory, monitoring, and research, including applicable traditional knowledge, to obtain information and data that will help park managers accomplish park management objectives provided for in law and planning documents;

·         define, assemble, and synthesize comprehensive baseline inventory data describing the natural resources under NPS stewardship, and identify the processes that influence those resources;

·         use qualitative and quantitative techniques to monitor key aspects of resources and processes at regular intervals;

·         analyze the resulting information to detect or predict changes (including interrelationships with visitor carrying capacities) that may require management intervention and provide reference points for comparison with other environments and time frames; and

·         use the resulting information to maintain—and where necessary restore—the integrity of natural systems.


The Service may support studies to (among other things)


·         ensure a systematic, current, and fully adequate park information base;

·         provide a sound basis for policy, guidelines, and management actions;

·         develop effective strategies, methods, and technologies to (1) restore disturbed resources, and (2) predict, avoid, or minimize adverse impacts on natural and cultural resources and on visitors and related activities;

·         ensure that plans and actions reflect contemporary knowledge about the natural and cultural context of special natural areas, cultural landscapes, and natural resources having traditional cultural meaning and value to associated human groups;

·         determine the causes of natural resource management problems and identify alternative strategies for potentially resolving them;

·         understand the ceremonial and traditional resource management practices of Native Americans, subsistence uses by rural Alaska residents, and traditional uses by groups with demonstrated ties to particular natural resources of parks;

·         further understand park ecosystems and related human social systems, including visitors and gateway communities, and document their components, condition, and significance; and

·         ensure that the interpretation of the parks’ natural resources and issues reflects current standards of scholarship relating to the history, science, and condition of the resources.


Superintendents may authorize NPS staff to carry out routine inventory, monitoring, study, and related duties without requiring an NPS scientific research and collecting permit. With or without an NPS permit, staff will comply appropriately with professional standards and with general and park-specific research and collecting permit conditions. All research and data and specimen collection conducted by NPS employees will be appropriately documented and carried out in accordance with all laws, regulations, policies, and professional standards pertaining to survey, inventory, monitoring, and research. NPS staff will be expected to make their findings available to the public, such as by publication in professional journals or presentation in interpretive programs.


Park inventory, monitoring, and research needs and specific research objectives will be identified in the appropriate management plans for each park, or in park, regional, or Service-wide program plans.


(See Decision-making Requirements to Identify and Avoid Impairments 1.4.7; Natural Resource Information 4.1.2; Restoration of Natural Systems 4.1.5; Weather and Climate 4.7.2; Miscellaneous Management Facilities 9.4.5)


4.2.2  Independent Studies

Non-NPS studies conducted in parks are not required to address specifically identified NPS management issues or information needs. However, these studies, including data and specimen collection, require an NPS scientific research and collecting permit. The studies must conform to NPS policies and guidelines regarding the collection and publication of data, the conduct of studies, wilderness restrictions, and park-specific requirements identified in the terms and conditions of the permit. Projects will be administered and conducted only by fully qualified personnel and conform to current standards of scholarship. NPS scientific research and collecting permits may include requirements that permittees provide for parks, within agreed-upon time frames, copies of appropriate field notes, cataloging, and other data; information about the data; progress reports; interim and final reports; and publications derived from the permitted activities.


(See Independent Research 5.1.2)


4.2.3  Natural Resource Collections

Natural resource collections include non-living and living specimens. Guidance for collecting and managing specimens and associated field records can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 2.5) and NPS guidance documents, including the museum handbook. Nonliving specimens and their associated field records are managed as museum collections. Living collections will be managed in accordance with the provisions of a park’s general management plan, the Animal Welfare Act, and other appropriate requirements.


Field data, objects, specimens, and features obtained for preservation during inventory, monitoring, research, and study projects, together with associated records and reports, will be managed over the long term within the museum collection. Specimens that are not authorized for consumptive analysis remain federal property and will be labeled and cataloged into the NPS cataloging system (ANCS+, or its successor) in accordance with applicable regulations (36 CFR 2.5).


(See Paleontological Resources and Their Contexts; Collecting Natural Products 8.8; Consumptive Uses 8.9; Natural and Cultural Studies, Research, and Collection Activities 8.10; Social Science Studies 8.11. Also see Director’s Order #24: NPS Museum Collections Management)


4.2.4  Collection Associated with the Development of Commercial Products

Extractive use of park resources for commercial purposes is prohibited except when specifically authorized by law or in the exercise of valid existing rights.


The results of research conducted on any material originating as a research specimen collected under an NPS scientific research and collecting permit (including progeny, replicates, or derivatives) may be used only for scientific purposes and not for commercial purposes without supplemental written authorization from the Park Service. The sale of collected research specimens from the permitted collector to third parties is prohibited; these research specimens remain federal property.  Specimens and any material originating as a specimen may be loaned for scientific purposes related to commercial use in accordance with the terms of applicable written authorization from the Park Service.


Similarly, the results of other research conducted under an NPS scientific research and collecting permit that does not involve the collection of specimens may be used for scientific purposes only and may not be used for commercial purposes without supplemental written authorization.


(Also see Director’s Order #74: Studies and Collecting)


4.3  Special Designations


The Park Service recognizes that special designations apply to parts or all of some parks to highlight the additional management considerations that those designated areas warrant. These designations include research natural area, experimental research area, wilderness area, national wild and scenic river, national natural landmark, biosphere reserve, and world heritage listing.  These designations do not reduce the Service’s authority for managing the parks, although in some cases they may create additional management requirements or considerations.


4.3.1  Research Natural Areas

Research natural areas contain prime examples of natural resources and processes, including significant genetic resources that have value for long-term observational studies or as control areas for manipulative research taking place outside the parks. Superintendents recommend areas of parks to their regional director, who is authorized to designate them as research natural areas. Superintendents cooperate with other federal land managers in identifying park sites for designation and planning research and educational activities for this interagency program.


Activities in research natural areas generally will be restricted to nonmanipulative research, education, and other activities that will not detract from an area’s research values.


4.3.2  Experimental Research Areas

Experimental research areas are specific tracts that are set aside and managed for approved manipulative research. Manipulative research is defined as research in which conscious alteration of existing conditions is part of the experiment. The limited situations that may warrant establishment of experimental research areas are identified in Natural Resources Reference Manual 77. Superintendents may recommend areas of the park to their regional director, who is authorized to designate them as experimental research areas.


4.3.3  Wilderness Areas

See chapter 6.


4.3.4  National Wild and Scenic Rivers System

Parks containing one or more river segments listed in the NPS National Rivers Inventory, or that have characteristics that might make them eligible for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, will comply with section 5(d)(1) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 USC 1276(d)(1)), which instructs each federal agency to assess whether those rivers are suitable for inclusion in the system. The assessments, and any resulting management requirements, may be incorporated into a park’s general management plan or other management plan. No management actions may be taken that could adversely affect the values that qualify a river for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.


(See Wild and Scenic Rivers Also see Director’s Order #46A: Wild and Scenic Rivers within the National Park System; Wild and Scenic Rivers Act)


4.3.5  National Natural Landmarks

Park sites that are among the best examples of a type of biotic community or geological feature in a park’s physiographic province may be nominated to the Secretary of the Interior for inclusion in the National Registry of Natural Landmarks. As the agency responsible for maintaining the registry, the Park Service has developed criteria for eligibility (36 CFR Part 62).


4.3.6  Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere reserves are sites that are part of a worldwide network of natural reserves recognized for their roles in conserving genetic resources; facilitating long-term research and monitoring; and encouraging education, training, and the demonstration of sustainable resource use. A biosphere reserve is usually representative of a biogeographic province.


With the approval of the NPS Director, parks may be nominated for recognition as biosphere reserves, or as constituents of biosphere reserves. Specific guidance for recognition is provided by the United States Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme based on the general guidance of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Working within the Man and Biosphere Programme, the Park Service may assist in determining the suitability and feasibility of including parks in U. S. biosphere reserves, may participate in research and educational activities, and may furnish information on its biosphere reserves for inclusion in domestic and international information systems.


The designation of park lands as biosphere reserves or constituents of biosphere reserves does not alter the purposes for which the parks were established, change the management requirements, or reduce NPS jurisdiction over parks. To the extent practicable, superintendents of parks that are recognized as biosphere reserves will incorporate biosphere reserve objectives into general management plans, implementation plans, action plans, and park interpretive programs. Superintendents will pursue opportunities to use the biosphere reserve designation as a framework for local, regional, and international cooperation.


4.3.7  World Heritage List

Park properties containing natural features believed to possess outstanding universal value to humanity may qualify for placement on the World Heritage List under criteria described in the World Heritage Committee Operational Guidelines and in accordance with the World Heritage Convention.  Before they can be nominated, all such properties must be assessed according to World Heritage criteria, and before the United States can submit a nomination to the World Heritage Committee, the property must first be included on the U.S. Tentative List of Potential Future World Heritage Nominations.


Any park superintendent who believes that part or all of the park they manage should be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List must consult with the NPS Office of International Affairs, the NPS Director, and the Department of the Interior before proceeding.  U.S. recommendations are approved by an interagency panel chaired by the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks based on criteria promulgated by the World Heritage Committee. These criteria and the rules for U.S. participation in the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage are published in 36 CFR Part 73. 


Once a property is placed on the World Heritage List, the Park Service will recognize the designation in public information and interpretive programs.  Where appropriate, superintendents should use the park’s world heritage status to promote sustainable tourism (tourism that does not adversely impact park resources and values) and the preservation of the world’s natural and cultural heritage. Placement on the World Heritage List will not alter the purposes for which a park was established, or its management requirements, or reduce NPS jurisdiction over the park. 

(See Nominations for World Heritage List Designation


4.4  Biological Resource Management


4.4.1  General Principles for Managing Biological Resources

The National Park Service will maintain as parts of the natural ecosystems of parks all plants and animals native to park ecosystems. The term “plants and animals” refers to all five of the commonly recognized kingdoms of living things and includes such groups as flowering plants, ferns, mosses, lichens, algae, fungi, bacteria, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, insects, worms, crustaceans, and microscopic plants or animals. The Service will successfully maintain native plants and animals by


·        preserving and restoring the natural abundances, diversities, dynamics, distributions, habitats, and behaviors of native plant and animal populations and the communities and ecosystems in which they occur;

·        restoring native plant and animal populations in parks when they have been extirpated by past human-caused actions; and

·        minimizing human impacts on native plants, animals, populations, communities, and ecosystems, and the processes that sustain them.  Plant and Animal Population Management Principles

The individual plants and animals found in parks are genetically parts of species populations that may extend across both park and nonpark lands. As local populations within a group of populations naturally fluctuate in size, they become vulnerable to extirpation during periods when their numbers are low. The periodic disappearance of local populations is common in some species, and the regional persistence of these species depends upon the natural recolonization of suitable habitat by individuals from the remaining local populations. Thus, providing for the persistence of a species in a park may require maintaining a number of local populations, often both within and outside the park.


In addition, some populations of vertebrate and invertebrate animals, such as bats, caribou, warblers, marine turtles, frogs, salmon, whales, and butterflies, migrate at regular intervals into and out of parks. For these migratory populations, the parks provide only one of the several major habitats they need, and survival of the species in parks also depends on the existence and quality of habitats outside the parks, including in many cases outside the United States. The Service will adopt park resource preservation, development, and use management strategies that are intended to maintain the natural population fluctuations and processes that influence the dynamics of individual plant and animal populations, groups of plant and animal populations, and migratory animal populations in parks.


In addition to maintaining all native plant and animal species and their habitats inside parks, the Service will work with other land managers to encourage the conservation of the populations and habitats of these species outside parks whenever possible. To meet its commitments for maintaining native species in parks, the Service will cooperate with states, tribal governments, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, and other countries, as appropriate, to


·         participate in local and regional scientific and planning efforts, identify ranges of populations of native plants and animals, and develop cooperative strategies for maintaining or restoring these populations in the parks;

·         suggest mutually beneficial harvest regulations for lands and waters outside the parks for populations that extend across park boundaries, such as resident deer or fishes; for short-distance seasonal migrant populations, such as elk or fishes; or for long-distance migrant populations, such as salmon;

·         develop data, through monitoring, for use in plant and animal management programs (such as local land management decision-making for assessing resident plant and animal population trends and in international management negotiations for such far-ranging seasonal migrants as geese, whales, and marine turtles);

·         present information about species life cycles, ranges, and population dynamics in park interpretive programs for use in increasing public awareness of management needs for all species, both resident and migrant, that occur in parks; and

·         prevent the introduction of exotic species into units of the national park system, and remove, when possible, or otherwise contain individuals or populations of these species that have already become established in parks.


(See Civic Engagement 1.7; Cooperative Conservation Beyond Park Boundaries 1.6)  Genetic Resource Management Principles

The Service will strive to protect the full range of genetic types (genotypes) of native plant and animal populations in the parks by perpetuating natural evolutionary processes and minimizing human interference with evolving genetic diversity.


The restoration of native plants and animals will be accomplished using organisms taken from populations as closely related genetically and ecologically as possible to park populations, preferably from similar habitats in adjacent or local areas. Deviations from this general policy may be made where the management goal is to increase the variability of the park gene pool to mitigate past, human-induced loss of genetic variability. Actions to transplant organisms for purposes of restoring genetic variability through gene flow between native breeding populations will be preceded by an assessment of the genetic compatibility of the populations.


The need to maintain appropriate levels of genetic diversity will guide decisions on what actions to take to manage isolated populations of species or to enhance the recovery of populations of rare, threatened, or endangered species. All resource management actions involving planting or relocating species, subspecies, or varieties will be guided by detailed knowledge of site ecological histories and knowledge of local adaptations, ranges, and habitat requirements.


When native plants or animals are removed for any reason—such as hunting, fishing, pest management, or culling to reduce unnatural population conditions resulting from human activities—the Service will maintain the appropriate levels of natural genetic diversity.


(See Restoration of Natural Systems 4.1.5; Restoration of Native Plant and Animal Species  Definition of Native and Exotic Species

Native species are defined as all species that have occurred, now occur, or may occur as a result of natural processes on lands designated as units of the national park system. Native species in a place are evolving in concert with each other. Exotic species are those species that occupy or could occupy park lands directly or indirectly as the result of deliberate or accidental human activities. Exotic species are also commonly referred to as nonnative, alien, or invasive species. Because an exotic species did not evolve in concert with the species native to the place, the exotic species is not a natural component of the natural ecosystem at that place. Genetically modified organisms exist solely due to human activities and therefore are managed as exotic species in parks.


4.4.2  Management of Native Plants and Animals

Whenever possible, natural processes will be relied upon to maintain native plant and animal species, and to influence natural fluctuations in populations of these species. The Service may intervene to manage populations or individuals of native species only when two conditions are met. One is that the intervention will not cause unacceptable impacts to the populations of the species or to other components and processes of the ecosystems that support them. The second is that at least one of the following circumstances exists:

·         Management of a population is necessary

o        because a population occurs in an unnaturally high or low concentration as a result of human influences (such as loss of seasonal habitat, the extirpation of predators, the creation of highly productive habitat through agriculture or urban landscapes) and it is not possible to mitigate the effects of the human influences;

o        to protect specific cultural resources of parks;

o        to accommodate intensive development in portions of parks appropriate for and dedicated to such development;

o        to protect rare, threatened, or endangered species;

o        to protect human health as advised by the U. S. Public Health Service (which includes the Centers for Disease Control and the NPS public health program);

o        to protect property when it is not possible to change the pattern of human activities; or

o        to maintain human safety when it is not possible to change the pattern of human activities.


·          Removal of individuals or parts thereof

o        is part of an NPS research project described in an approved management plan, or is part of research being conducted by others who have been issued a scientific research and collecting permit;

o        is done to provide plants or animals for restoring native populations in parks or cooperating areas without diminishing the viability of the park populations from which the individuals are taken; or

o        meets specific park management objectives.


In planning and implementing plant and animal population management actions, the Service will follow established planning procedures, including provisions for public review and comment. The Service will consult, as appropriate, with other federal land-management agencies, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA Fisheries, state wildlife management agencies, other appropriate state agencies, tribal governments, and others. Such consultation will address (1) the management of selected animal populations, (2) research involving the taking of animal species of interest to these agencies, and (3) cooperative studies and plans dealing with the public hunting and fishing of animal populations that occur across park boundaries.


The Service’s cooperative conservation efforts concerning fish and wildlife management will be consistent with departmental policy articulated at 43 CFR Part 24. This departmental policy recognizes the broad authorities and responsibilities of federal and state agencies with regard to the management of the nation’s fish and wildlife resources; this policy also promotes cooperative management relationships among these agencies.  In particular, the policy calls on the Service to consult with state agencies on certain fish and wildlife management actions and encourages the execution of memoranda of understanding as appropriate to ensure the conduct of programs that meet mutual objectives as long as they do not conflict with federal law or regulation.


The Service will assess the results of managing plant and animal populations by conducting follow-up monitoring or other studies to determine the impacts of the management methods on nontargeted and targeted components of the ecosystem.  NPS Actions That Remove Native Plants and Animals

Whenever the Service removes native plants or animals, manages plant or animal populations to reduce their sizes, or allows others to remove plants or animals for an authorized purpose, the Service will seek to ensure that such removals will not cause unacceptable impacts on native resources, natural processes, or other park resources. Whenever the Service identifies a possible need for reducing the size of a park plant or animal population, the Service will use scientifically valid resource information obtained through consultation with technical experts, literature review, inventory, monitoring, or research to evaluate the identified need for population management; the Service will document it in the appropriate park management plan.


In addition, the Service will manage such removals to prevent them from interfering broadly with


·         natural habitats, natural abundances, and natural distributions of native species and natural processes

·         rare, threatened, and endangered plant or animal species or their critical habitats

·         scientific study, interpretation, environmental education, appreciation of wildlife, or other public benefits

·         opportunities to restore depressed populations of native species

·         breeding or spawning grounds of native species


Where the need to reduce animal populations may be due to persistent human/animal conflicts, the Service will determine whether or not it can eliminate or mitigate the conflicts by modifying or curtailing the conflicting visitor use or other human activities. Where visitor use or other human activities cannot be modified or curtailed, the Service may directly reduce the animal population by using several animal population management techniques, either separately or together. These techniques include relocation, public hunting on lands outside a park or where legislatively authorized within a park, habitat management, predator restoration, reproductive

intervention, and destruction of animals by NPS personnel or their authorized agents. Where animal populations are reduced, destroyed animals may be left in natural areas of the park to decompose unless there are human safety concerns regarding attraction of potentially harmful scavengers to populated sites or trails or other human health and sanitary concerns associated with decomposition. Live animals or carcasses may be removed from parks according to the provisions of applicable laws, agreements, and regulations, including the granting of preference to Native Americans.


(See Pest Management 4.4.5. Also see Director’s Order #18: Wildland Fire Management)  Restoration of Native Plant and Animal Species

The Service will strive to restore extirpated native plant and animal species to parks whenever all of the following criteria are met:


·         Adequate habitat to support the species either exists or can reasonably be restored in the park and if necessary also on adjacent public lands and waters; once a natural population level is achieved, the population can be self-perpetuating.

·         The species does not, based on an effective management plan, pose a serious threat to the safety of people in parks, park resources, or persons or property within or outside park boundaries.

·         The genetic type used in restoration most nearly approximates the extirpated genetic type.

·         The species disappeared or was substantially diminished as a direct or indirect result of human-induced change to the species population or to the ecosystem.

·         Potential impacts upon park management and use have been carefully considered.


Programs to restore animal species may include confining animals in small field enclosures during restoration efforts, but only until the animals have become accustomed to the new area or they have become sufficiently established to minimize threats from predators, poaching, disease, or other factors. Programs to restore animal species may also include confining animals in cages for captive breeding to increase the number of offspring for release to the wild or to manage the population’s gene pool. Programs to restore plant species may include propagating plants in greenhouses, gardens, or other confined areas to develop propagation materials (propagules) for restoration efforts or to manage a population’s gene pool.


(See Restoration of Natural Systems 4.1.5)  Management of Threatened or Endangered Plants and Animals

The Service will survey for, protect, and strive to recover all species native to national park system units that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Service will fully meet its obligations under the NPS Organic Act and the Endangered Species Act to both proactively conserve listed species and prevent detrimental effects on these species. To meet these obligations, the Service will

·         cooperate with both the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA Fisheries to ensure that NPS actions comply with both the written requirements and the spirit of the Endangered Species Act. This cooperation should include the full range of activities associated with the Endangered Species Act, including consultation, conferencing, informal discussions, and securing all necessary scientific and/or recovery permits;

·         undertake active management programs to inventory, monitor, restore, and maintain listed species’ habitats; control detrimental nonnative species; manage detrimental visitor access; and reestablish extirpated populations as necessary to maintain the species and the habitats upon which they depend;

·         manage designated critical habitat, essential habitat, and recovery areas to maintain and enhance their value for the recovery of threatened and endangered species;

·         cooperate with other agencies to ensure that the delineation of critical habitat, essential habitat, and/or recovery areas on park-managed lands provides needed conservation benefits to the total recovery efforts being conducted by all the participating agencies;

·         participate in the recovery planning process, including the provision of members on recovery teams and recovery implementation teams where appropriate;

·         cooperate with other agencies, states, and private entities to promote candidate conservation agreements aimed at precluding the need to list species; and

·         conduct actions and allocate funding to address endangered, threatened, proposed, and candidate species.


The National Park Service will inventory, monitor, and manage state and locally listed species in a manner similar to its treatment of federally listed species to the greatest extent possible. In addition, the Service will inventory other native species that are of special management concern to parks (such as rare, declining, sensitive, or unique species and their habitats) and will manage them to maintain their natural distribution and abundance.


The Service will determine all management actions for the protection and perpetuation of federally, state, or locally listed species through the park management planning process, and will include consultation with lead federal and state agencies as appropriate.


(See Cooperative Conservation Beyond Park Boundaries 1.6; Partnerships 1.10 and 4.1.4; Cooperative Planning; Visitor Use 8.2)  Management of Natural Landscapes

Natural landscapes disturbed by natural phenomena, such as landslides, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires, will be allowed to recover naturally unless manipulation is necessary to (1) mitigate for excessive disturbance caused by past human effects, (2) preserve cultural and historic resources as appropriate based on park planning documents, or (3) protect park developments or the safety of people. Landscape and vegetation conditions altered by human activity may be manipulated where the park management plan provides for restoring the lands to a natural condition. Management activities to restore human-altered landscapes may include, but are not restricted to


·         removing constructed features, restoring natural topographic gradients, and revegetating with native park species on acquired inholdings and on sites from which previous development is being removed;

·         restoring natural processes and conditions to areas disturbed by human activities such as fire suppression;

·         rehabilitating areas disturbed by visitor use or by the removal of hazard trees; and

·         maintaining open areas and meadows in situations in which they were formerly maintained by natural processes that now are altered by human activities.


Landscape revegetation efforts will use seeds, cuttings, or transplants representing species and gene pools native to the ecological portion of the park in which the restoration project is occurring. Where a natural area has become so degraded that restoration with gene pools native to the park has proven unsuccessful, improved varieties or closely related native species may be used.


Landscape restoration efforts will use geological materials and soils obtained in accordance with geological and soil resource management policies. Landscape restoration efforts may use, on a temporary basis, appropriate soil fertilizers or other soil amendments so long as that use does not unacceptably alter the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of the soil and biological community and does not degrade surface or groundwaters.


(See Restoration of Natural Systems 4.1.5; Cultural Landscapes  Maintenance of Altered Plant Communities

In altered plant communities managed for a specified purpose, plantings will consist of species that are native to the park or that are historically appropriate for the period or event commemorated. Communities altered to maintain habitat for threatened or endangered species may only use native plants, and the manipulation of existing plants will be carried out to enhance the recovery of the threatened or endangered species or the recovery of the natural functioning of the plant and animal community that endangered species are a part of. Use of exotic plants must conform to exotic species policy. Use of nonnatural plantings in altered communities may be permitted under any of the following conditions:


·         In localized, specific areas, screen plantings may be used to protect against the undesirable impacts of adjacent land uses provided that the plantings do not result in the invasion of exotic species.

·         Where necessary to preserve and protect the desired condition of specific cultural resources and landscapes, plants and plant communities generally will be managed to reflect the character of the landscape that prevailed during the historic period. Efforts may be made to extend the lives of specimen trees dating from the historic period being commemorated. An individual tree or shrub known to be of historic value that is diseased beyond recovery and has become hazardous will be removed and may be replaced. While specimen trees or shrubs that need to be perpetuated are still healthy, their own progeny will be propagated from seeds or through vegetative reproduction, such as cuttings.

·         Where cultivated crop plants may be needed for livestock or agricultural uses that are allowed as part of the cultural landscape, authorized by federal law, or retained as a property right, with rigorous review given to any proposal to introduce a genetically modified organism.

·         Where needed for intensive development areas. Such plantings will use noninvasive native or nonnative historic species and materials to the maximum extent possible. Certain native species may be fostered for esthetic, interpretive, or educational purposes.

Exotic species may not be used to vegetate vista clearings in otherwise natural vegetation.


Limited, recurring use of soil fertilizers or other soil amendments may be allowed only as needed to maintain the desired condition of the altered plant community, and only where such use does not unacceptably alter the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of the soil and biological community or degrade surface or groundwaters.


(See Management of Exotic Species 4.4.4; Cultural Landscapes


4.4.3  Harvest of Plants and Animals by the Public

Public harvesting of designated species of plants and animals, or their components, may be allowed in park units when


·         hunting, trapping, subsistence use, or other harvesting is specifically authorized by statute or regulation and not subsequently prohibited by regulation;

·         harvest of certain plant parts or unoccupied seashells for personal consumption or use is specifically authorized by the superintendent in accordance with 36 CFR 2.1(c)(1);

·         recreational fishing is not specifically prohibited; or

·         commercial fishing is specifically authorized by statute or regulation.


Where harvesting is allowed and subject to NPS control, the Service will allow harvesting only when (1) the monitoring requirement contained in section 4.4.2 and the criteria in section above have been met, and (2) the Service has determined that the harvesting will not unacceptably impact park resources or natural processes, including the natural distributions, densities, age-class distributions, and behavior of


·         harvested species

·         native species that the harvested species use for any purpose, or

·         native species that use the harvested species for any purpose


In consultation and cooperation, as appropriate, with individual state or tribal governments, the Service will manage harvesting programs and any associated habitat management programs intended to restore and maintain habitats supporting harvested plant or animal populations to conform with applicable federal and state regulations.


Habitat manipulation for harvested species may include the restoration of a disturbed area to its natural condition so it can become self-perpetuating, but this will not include the artificial manipulation of habitat to increase the numbers of a harvested species above its natural range in population levels.


The Service may encourage the intensive harvesting of exotic species in certain situations when needed to meet park management objectives.


The Service does not engage in activities to reduce the numbers of native species for the purpose of increasing the numbers of harvested species (i.e., predator control), nor does the Service permit others to do so on lands managed by the National Park Service.

The Service manages harvest to allow for self-sustaining populations of harvested species and does not engage in the stocking of plants or animals to increase harvest.  In some special situations, the Service may stock native or exotic animals for recreational harvesting purposes, but only when such stocking will not unacceptably impact park natural resources or processes and when


·         the stocking is of fish into constructed large reservoirs or other significantly altered large water bodies and the purpose is to provide for recreational fishing; or

·         the intent for stocking is a treaty right or expressed in statute, other applicable law, or a House or Senate report accompanying a statute.


The Service will not stock waters that are naturally barren of harvested aquatic species.


4.4.4  Management of Exotic Species

Exotic species will not be allowed to displace native species if displacement can be prevented.  Introduction or Maintenance of Exotic Species

In general, new exotic species will not be introduced into parks. In rare situations, an exotic species may be introduced or maintained to meet specific, identified management needs when all feasible and prudent measures to minimize the risk of harm have been taken and it is


·         a closely related race, subspecies, or hybrid of an extirpated native species; or

·         an improved variety of a native species in situations in which the natural variety cannot survive current, human-altered environmental conditions; or

·         used to control another, already established exotic species; or

·         needed to meet the desired condition of a historic resource, but only where it is noninvasive and is prevented from being invasive by such means as cultivating (for plants), or tethering, herding, or pasturing (for animals). In such cases, the exotic species used must be known to be historically significant, to have existed in the park during the park’s period of historical significance, to be a contributing element to a cultural landscape, or to have been commonly used in the local area at that time; or

·         an agricultural crop used to maintain the character of a cultural landscape, with rigorous review given to any proposal to introduce a genetically modified organism; or

·         necessary to provide for intensive visitor use in developed areas and both of the following conditions exist:

o        Available native species will not meet park management objectives.

o        The exotic species is managed so it will not spread or become a pest on park or adjacent lands.

·         a sterile, noninvasive plant that is used temporarily for erosion control; or

·         directed by law or expressed legislative intent.


Domestic livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, mules, burros, reindeer, and llamas are exotic species that are maintained in some parks for commercial herding, pasturing, grazing, or trailing; for recreational use; or for administrative use for maintaining the cultural scene or supporting park operations. The policies applicable to the grazing of commercial domestic livestock are discussed in chapter 8, section 8.6.8. The Service will phase out the commercial grazing of livestock whenever possible and manage recreational and administrative uses of livestock to prevent those uses from unacceptably impacting park resources.  Removal of Exotic Species Already Present

All exotic plant and animal species that are not maintained to meet an identified park purpose will be managed—up to and including eradication—if (1) control is prudent and feasible, and (2) the exotic species


·         interferes with natural processes and the perpetuation of natural features, native species or natural habitats, or

·         disrupts the genetic integrity of native species, or

·         disrupts the accurate presentation of a cultural landscape, or

·         damages cultural resources, or

·         significantly hampers the management of park or adjacent lands, or

·         poses a public health hazard as advised by the U. S. Public Health Service (which includes the Centers for Disease Control and the NPS public health program), or

·         creates a hazard to public safety.


High priority will be given to managing exotic species that have, or potentially could have, a substantial impact on park resources, and that can reasonably be expected to be successfully controlled. Lower priority will be given to exotic species that have almost no impact on park resources or that probably cannot be successfully controlled. Where an exotic species cannot be successfully eliminated, managers will seek to contain the exotic species to prevent further spread or resource damage.


The decision to initiate management should be based on a determination that the species is exotic. For species determined to be exotic and where management appears to be feasible and effective, superintendents should (1) evaluate the species’ current or potential impact on park resources; (2) develop and implement exotic species management plans according to established planning procedures; (3) consult, as appropriate, with federal, tribal, local, and state agencies as well as other interested groups; and (4) invite public review and comment, where appropriate. Programs to manage exotic species will be designed to avoid causing significant damage to native species, natural ecological communities, natural ecological processes, cultural resources, and human health and safety. Considerations and techniques regarding removal of exotic species are similar to those used for native species (see NPS Actions That Remove Native Plants and Animals).


(Also see Executive Order 13112 (Invasive Species))


4.4.5  Pest Management

All park employees, concessioners, contractors, permittees, licensees, and visitors on all lands managed or regulated by the National Park Service will comply with NPS pest management policies.  Pests

Pests are living organisms that interfere with the purposes or management objectives of a specific site within a park or that jeopardize human health or safety. Decisions concerning whether or not to manage a pest or pest population will be influenced by whether the pest is an exotic or a native species. Exotic pests will be managed according to both the policies in this section (4.4.5) and the exotic species policies in section 4.4.4. Native pests will be allowed to function unimpeded, except as noted below. Many fungi, insects, rodents, disease organisms, and other organisms that may be perceived as pests are, in fact, native organisms existing under natural conditions and are natural elements of the ecosystem. Also, native pests that were evident in pesticide-free times are traditional elements in park cultural settings.


The Service may control native pests to


·         conserve threatened, rare, or endangered species, or unique specimens or communities;

·         preserve, maintain, or restore the historical integrity of cultural resources;

·         conserve and protect plants, animals, and facilities in developed areas;

·         prevent outbreaks of a pest from invading uninfested areas outside the park;

·         manage a human health hazard when advised to do so by the U. S. Public Health Service (which includes the Centers for Disease Control and the NPS public health program); or

·         to otherwise protect against a significant threat to human safety.  Integrated Pest Management Program

The Service conducts an integrated pest management (IPM) program to reduce risks to the public, park resources, and the environment from pests and pest-related management strategies. Integrated pest management is a decision-making process that coordinates knowledge of pest biology, the environment, and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by cost-effective means while posing the least possible risk to people, resources, and the environment.


The Service and each park unit will use an IPM approach to address pest issues. Proposed pest management activities must be conducted according to the IPM process prescribed in Director’s Order #77-7: Integrated Pest Management. Pest issues will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Controversial issues, or those that have potential to negatively impact the environment, must be addressed through established planning procedures and be included in an approved park management or IPM plan. IPM procedures will be used to determine when to implement pest management actions and which combination of strategies will be most effective for each pest situation.


Under the Service’s IPM program, all pesticide use on lands managed or regulated by the Service, whether that use was authorized or unauthorized, must be reported annually.  Pesticide Use

A pesticide, as defined by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, is any substance or mixture that is used in any manner to destroy, repel, or control the growth of any viral, microbial, plant, or animal pest. Except as identified in the next paragraph, all prospective users of pesticides in parks must submit pesticide use requests, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account environmental effects, cost and staffing, and other relevant considerations. The decision to incorporate a chemical, biological, or bioengineered pesticide into a management strategy will be based on a determination by a designated IPM specialist that it is necessary and other available options are either not acceptable or not feasible. Pesticide applications will only be performed by or under the supervision of certified or registered applicators licensed under the procedures of a federal or state certification system.


Insect repellents, bear deterrent sprays, and insecticides applied to persons or to livestock must conform to NPS policies and approval procedures, except that pesticides used under the following conditions do not require approval:


·         cleansers and disinfectants used in restrooms and restaurants

·         personal insect repellents, insecticides, and bear deterrent sprays that employees or park visitors personally obtain and use to meet personal needs

·         insect repellents and insecticides applied to personally owned pets and pack and saddle stock  Biological Control Agents and Bioengineered Products

The application or release of any bio-control agent or bioengineered product relating to pest management activities must be reviewed by designated IPM specialists in accordance with Director’s Order #77-7 and conform to the exotic species policies in section 4.4.4.  Pesticide Purchase and Storage

Pesticides must not be stockpiled. No pesticides may be purchased unless they are authorized and expected to be used within one year from the date of purchase. Pesticide storage, transport, and disposal will comply with procedures established by (1) the Environmental Protection Agency; (2) the individual states in which parks are located; and (3) Director’s Order #30A: Hazardous and Solid Waste Management, Director’s Order #77-1: Wetland Protection, and Director’s Order 77-7: Integrated Pest Management.


(See Planning for Natural Resource Management 4.1.1; Genetic Resource Management Principles; Management of Exotic Species 4.4.4; Maintenance 9.1.4)


4.5  Fire Management


Naturally ignited fire, including the smoke it produces, is part of many of the natural systems that are being sustained in parks. Such natural systems contain plant and animal communities that are characterized as fire-adapted or fire-dependent.  They require periodic episodes of fire to retain their ecological integrity and, in the human-caused absence of fire, they can experience undesirable impacts that diminish their integrity—such as unnatural successional trends, loss of habitat for fire-adapted plant and animal species, or vulnerability to unnaturally intense wildland fire.  Other park natural systems are characterized by a natural absence or very low frequency of fire.  These systems are at risk of losing their ecological integrity when the natural fire regime is subjected to human interference.


Fires that burn natural or landscaped vegetation in parks are called wildland fires.  Wildland fires occur from both natural and human sources of ignition.  Wildland fires may contribute to or hinder the achievement of park management objectives, and management response to each wildland fire is determined by whether or not the fire occurs within prescription as identified in the park’s fire management plan. Wildland fire use is the application of an appropriate management response to naturally ignited wildland fires to accomplish specific resource management objectives in predefined areas outlined in fire management plans.  Prescribed fires are the deliberate ignition of fires under prescribed circumstances to accomplish resource management objectives in predefined areas outlined in approved fire management plans.


Fire management consists of a program of activities designed to meet management objectives for protection of resource values, life, and property and, where appropriate, for using naturally ignited and human-ignited wildland fires as management tools. Park fire management programs designed specifically to meet park resource management objectives—including allowing fire to perform its natural role as much as practicable—will ensure that firefighter and public safety are not compromised.


Parks with vegetation capable of burning will prepare a fire management plan that is consistent with federal law and departmental fire management policies, and that includes addressing the need for adequate funding and staffing to support the planned fire management program. The plan will be designed to guide a program that


·        responds to the park’s natural and cultural resource objectives;

·        provides for safety considerations for park visitors, employees, and developed facilities;

·        addresses potential impacts on public and private neighbors and their property adjacent to the park; and

·        protects public health and safety.


The fire management plan will also include guidance on determining in which situations natural regeneration of a burned ecosystem is appropriate and when management actions are needed to restore, stabilize, or rehabilitate an area following wildland fire.


Environmental and cultural resource compliance documentation developed in support of the plan will consider the effects of fire on air quality, water quality, and human health and safety. It will also discuss the influence of fire, fire management, and the potential consequences and effects of fire exclusion on the ability of the park to meet its natural and cultural resource management objectives. Preparation of the plan and supporting documents will include collaboration with appropriate NPS natural and cultural resource offices, adjacent communities, interest groups, state and federal agencies, and tribal governments, with cooperating agency status granted when requested by eligible adjacent communities, state and federal agencies, and tribal governments.


All wildland fires will be effectively managed through application of the appropriate strategic and tactical management options as guided by the park’s fire management plan. These options will be selected after comprehensive consideration of the resource values to be protected, firefighter and public safety, costs, availability of firefighting resources, weather, and fuel conditions. Naturally ignited and human-ignited fires managed to achieve resource management and fuel treatment objectives, and the smoke they produce, will both be managed to comply with applicable local, state, and federal air quality regulations. Such fires will also include monitoring programs that record fire behavior, smoke behavior, fire decisions, and fire effects to provide information on whether specific objectives are met and to improve future fire management strategies. All parks will use a systematic decision-making process identified in their fire management plans or other documents to determine the most appropriate management strategies for all unplanned ignitions and for any naturally or management-ignited fires that are no longer meeting resource management objectives.


Parks lacking an approved fire management plan may not use resource benefits as a consideration influencing the selection of a suppression strategy; they must consider the resource impacts of suppression alternatives in their decisions. Until a plan is approved, parks must immediately suppress all wildland fires, taking into consideration park resources and values to be protected, firefighter and public safety, costs, availability of firefighting resources, weather, and fuel conditions. Parks will use methods to suppress wildland fires that minimize the impacts of the suppression action and the fire and are commensurate with effective control, firefighter and public safety, and resource values to be protected.


Burnable vegetation in many parks includes areas that are hazardous to specific park resources or human safety and property because of the presence of fuels that could carry wildland fire into special resource protection zones, developed areas, or outside park boundaries.  The fire management plan will address strategies for preventing the accumulation of hazardous fuels in specific areas and for eliminating hazardous conditions that may have developed over time due to past fire suppression programs or ongoing development activities. These strategies will entail strategic planning, interdisciplinary coordination, and interorganizational collaboration as needed to provide appropriate treatment using adaptive management practices that range from site specific to landscape level.  Although prescribed fire remains the preferred and most widely used NPS tool for managing the accumulation of hazardous fuels, the strategies will incorporate other activities, such as manual, mechanical, biological and, rarely, chemical treatments (applying integrated pest management principles), that may be appropriate in specific instances, as guided by NPS and DOI policies and legal requirements.


More details on wildland fire management, including interagency and Department of the Interior policies and requirements, are contained in Director’s Order #18: Wildland Fire Management.


Fire management or suppression activities conducted within wilderness, including the categories of designated, recommended, potential, proposed, and eligible areas, will be consistent with the “minimum requirement” concept identified in chapter 6 and Director’s Order #41: Wilderness Preservation and Management.


(See General Management Concepts 4.1; Partnerships 4.1.4; Restoration of Natural Systems 4.1.5; Air Resource Management 4.7; Fire Detection, Suppression, and Post-fire Rehabilitation and Protection; Fire Management 6.3.9; Visitor Safety; Structural Fire Protection and Suppression 9.1.8)


4.6  Water Resource Management


4.6.1  Protection of Surface Waters and Groundwaters

The Service will perpetuate surface waters and groundwaters as integral components of park aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

4.6.2  Water Rights

Water for the preservation and management of the national park system will be obtained and used in accordance with legal authorities. The Park Service will consider all available authorities on a case-by-case basis and will pursue those that are the most appropriate to protect water-related resources in parks. While preserving its legal remedies, the Service will work with state water administrators to protect park resources and participate in negotiations to seek the resolution of conflicts among multiple water claimants. Water essential for NPS needs will be purchased if it is not otherwise available. NPS consumptive use of water will be efficient and frugal, especially in water-scarce areas.


All rights to the use of water diverted from or used on federal lands within the national park system by the United States or its concessioners, lessors, or permittees will be perfected in the name of the United States.


Park surface waters or groundwater will be withdrawn for consumptive use only when such withdrawal is absolutely necessary for the use and management of the park. All park water withdrawn for domestic or administrative uses will be returned to the park watershed system once it has been treated to a degree that ensures that there will be no impairment of park resources.


The Service may enter into contracts for the sale or lease of water to persons, states, or their political subdivisions that provide public accommodations or services for park visitors outside and near the park that have no reasonable alternative sources of water. The Service will authorize such contracts only if


·        the transfer does not jeopardize or unduly interfere with the natural or cultural resources of the park, and

·        the government's costs are fully recovered, and

·        the contract is for a short term, true emergency.


The Service will follow the requirements and procedures of Director’s Orders #35A and #35B when considering the sale or lease of park water.


(See Decision-making Requirements to Identify and Avoid Impairments 1.4.7; Cooperative Conservation Beyond Park Boundaries 1.6)


4.6.3  Water Quality

The pollution of surface waters and groundwaters by both point and nonpoint sources can impair the natural functioning of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and diminish the utility of park waters for visitor use and enjoyment. The Service will determine the quality of park surface and groundwater resources and avoid, whenever possible, the pollution of park waters by human activities occurring within and outside the parks. The Service will


·         work with appropriate governmental bodies to obtain the highest possible standards available under the Clean Water Act for the protection for park waters;

·         take all necessary actions to maintain or restore the quality of surface waters and groundwaters within the parks consistent with the Clean Water Act and all other applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations; and

·         enter into agreements with other agencies and governing bodies, as appropriate, to secure their cooperation in maintaining or restoring the quality of park water resources.


(See Pest Management 4.4.5; Soil Resource Management; Backcountry Use; Domestic and Feral Livestock 8.6.8; Mineral Exploration and Development 8.7; Water Supply Systems; Wastewater Treatment Systems; Waste Management and Contaminant Issues 9.1.6; Facilities for Water Recreation Also see Director’s Order #83: Public Health)


4.6.4  Floodplains

In managing floodplains on park lands, the National Park Service will (1) manage for the preservation of floodplain values; (2) minimize potentially hazardous conditions associated with flooding; and (3) comply with the NPS Organic Act and all other federal laws and executive orders related to the management of activities in flood-prone areas, including Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management), the National Environmental Policy Act, applicable provisions of the Clean Water Act, and the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899. Specifically, the Service will


·         protect, preserve, and restore the natural resources and functions of floodplains;

·         avoid the long- and short-term environmental effects associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains; and

·         avoid direct and indirect support of floodplain development and actions that could adversely affect the natural resources and functions of floodplains or increase flood risks.


When it is not practicable to locate or relocate development or inappropriate human activities to a site outside and not affecting the floodplain, the Service will


·         prepare and approve a statement of findings, in accordance with procedures described in Director’s Order 77-2 (Floodplain Management);

·         use nonstructural measures as much as practicable to reduce hazards to human life and property while minimizing the impact to the natural resources of floodplains;

·         ensure that structures and facilities are designed to be consistent with the intent of the standards and criteria of the National Flood Insurance Program (44 CFR Part 60).


(See Siting Facilities to Avoid Natural Hazards


4.6.5  Wetlands

The Service will manage wetlands in compliance with NPS mandates and the requirements of Executive Order 11990 (Protection of Wetlands), the Clean Water Act,  the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899, and the procedures described in Director’s Order 77-1 (Wetland Protection). The Service will (1) provide leadership and take action to prevent the destruction, loss, or degradation of wetlands; (2) preserve and enhance the natural and beneficial values of wetlands; and (3) avoid direct and indirect support of new construction in wetlands unless there are no practicable alternatives and the proposed action includes all practicable measures to minimize harm to wetlands.


The Service will implement a “no net loss of wetlands” policy. In addition, the Service will strive to achieve a longer-term goal of net gain of wetlands across the national park system through restoration of previously degraded or destroyed wetlands


When natural wetland characteristics or functions have been degraded or lost due to previous or ongoing human actions, the Service will, to the extent practicable, restore them to predisturbance conditions.


The Service will conduct or obtain parkwide wetland inventories to help ensure proper planning with respect to the management and protection of wetland resources. Additional, more detailed wetland inventories will be conducted in areas that are proposed for development or are otherwise susceptible to degradation or loss due to human activities.


When practicable, the Service will not simply protect but will seek to enhance natural wetland values by using them for educational, recreational, scientific, and similar purposes that do not disrupt natural wetland functions.


For proposed new development or other new activities, plans, or programs that are either located in or otherwise could have adverse impacts on wetlands, the Service will employ the following sequence:


·         Avoid adverse wetland impacts to the extent practicable.

·         Minimize impacts that cannot be avoided.

·         Compensate for remaining unavoidable adverse wetland impacts by restoring wetlands that have been previously destroyed or degraded.


Compensation for wetland impacts or losses will require that at least 1 acre of wetlands be restored for each acre destroyed or degraded.


Actions proposed by the Park Service that have the potential to cause adverse impacts on wetlands must be addressed in an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. If the preferred alternative will result in adverse impacts on wetlands, a statement of findings must be prepared and approved in accordance with Director’s Order #77-1: Wetland Protection.


(See Decision-making Requirements to Identify and Avoid Impairments 1.4.7; Siting Facilities to Avoid Natural Hazards


4.6.6  Watershed and Stream Processes

The Service will manage watersheds as complete hydrologic systems and minimize human- caused disturbance to the natural upland processes that deliver water, sediment, and woody debris to streams. These processes include runoff, erosion, and disturbance to vegetation and soil caused by fire, insects, meteorological events, and mass movements. The Service will manage streams to protect stream processes that create habitat features such as floodplains, riparian systems, woody debris accumulations, terraces, gravel bars, riffles, and pools. Stream processes include flooding, stream migration, and associated erosion and deposition.


The Service will protect watershed and stream features primarily by avoiding impacts on watershed and riparian vegetation and by allowing natural fluvial processes to proceed unimpeded. When conflicts between infrastructure (such as bridges and pipeline crossings) and stream processes are unavoidable, NPS managers will first consider relocating or redesigning facilities rather than manipulating streams. Where stream manipulation is unavoidable, managers will use techniques that are visually nonobtrusive and that protect natural processes to the greatest extent practicable.


(See Floodplains 4.6.4; Shorelines and Barrier Islands;; Facility Planning and Design 9.1.1. Also see “Unified Federal Policy for a Watershed Approach to Federal Land and Resource Management,” 65 FR 62566, October 18, 2000)


4.7  Air Resource Management


4.7.1  Air Quality

The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect air quality under both the 1916 Organic Act and the Clean Air Act (CAA). Accordingly, the Service will seek to perpetuate the best possible air quality in parks to (1) preserve natural resources and systems; (2) preserve cultural resources; and (3) sustain visitor enjoyment, human health, and scenic vistas. Vegetation, visibility, water quality, wildlife, historic and prehistoric structures and objects, cultural landscapes, and most other elements of a park environment are sensitive to air pollution and are referred to as “air quality-related values.” The Service will actively promote and pursue measures to protect these values from the adverse impacts of air pollution. In cases of doubt as to the impacts of existing or potential air pollution on park resources, the Service will err on the side of protecting air quality and related values for future generations.


Superintendents will take actions consistent with their affirmative responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to protect air quality-related values in Class I areas. Class I areas are national parks over 6, 000 acres and national wilderness areas over 5,000 acres that were in existence on August 7, 1977. The act establishes a national goal of preventing any future and remedying any existing human-made visibility impairment in Class I areas. The Service supports that goal and will take advantage of opportunities created by the act to help achieve it.  The federal land manager shares the responsibility to protect air quality-related values in Class I areas. As the federal land manager for the department, the Secretary of the Interior has delegated this responsibility to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. 


The Clean Air Act also recognizes the importance of integral vistas, which are those views perceived from within Class I areas of a specific landmark or panorama located outside the boundary of the Class I area. Integral vistas have been identified by the Service and are listed in Natural Resources Reference Manual 77. There are no regulations requiring special protection of these integral vistas, but the Service will strive to protect these park-related resources through cooperative means.

Although the Clean Air Act gives the highest level of air quality protection to Class I areas, it provides many opportunities for the Service to participate in the development of pollution control programs to preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality of all units of the national park system. Regardless of Class I designation, the Service will take advantage of these opportunities.


Air resource management requirements will be integrated into NPS operations and planning, and all air pollution sources within parks—including prescribed fire management and visitor use activities—will comply with all federal, state, and local air quality regulations and permitting requirements. Superintendents will make reasonable efforts to notify visitors and employees when air pollution concentrations within an area exceed the national or state air quality standards established to protect public health. Furthermore, because the current and future quality of park air resources depends heavily on the actions of others, the Service will acquire the information needed to effectively participate in decision-making that affects park air quality. The Service will


·         inventory the air quality-related values associated with each park;

·         monitor and document the condition of air quality and related values;

·         evaluate air pollution impacts and identify causes;

·         minimize air quality pollution emissions associated with park operations, including the use of prescribed fire and visitor use activities; and

·         ensure healthful indoor air quality in NPS facilities.


External programs needed to remedy existing and prevent future impacts on park resources and values from human-caused air pollution will be aggressively pursued by NPS participation in the development of federal, state, and local air pollution control plans and regulations. Permit applications for major new air pollution sources will be reviewed, and potential impacts will be assessed. If it is determined that any such new source might cause or contribute to an adverse impact on air quality-related values, the Park Service will recommend to the permitting authority that the construction permit be denied or modified to eliminate adverse impacts.


The public’s understanding of park air quality issues and the positive role and efforts of the Service toward improving the air quality in parks will be promoted through educational and interpretive programs.


(See Cooperative Conservation Beyond Park Boundaries 1.6; Fire Management 4.5; Environmental Monitoring and Control; Resource Issue Interpretation and Education 7.5.3; Visitor Safety and Emergency Response 8.2.5; Energy Management 9.1.7)


4.7.2  Weather and Climate

Earth’s climate has changed throughout history.  Although national parks are intended to be naturally evolving places that conserve our natural and cultural heritage for generations to come, accelerated climate change may significantly alter park ecosystems. Thus, parks containing significant natural resources will gather and maintain baseline climatological data for reference.


Because any human attempt to modify weather has the potential to alter the natural conditions in parks, the Service will not conduct weather-modification activities, the Service will seek to prevent weather modification activities conducted by others from affecting a park’s weather, climate, and resources.


(See NPS-conducted or -sponsored Inventory, Monitoring, and Research Studies 4.2.1; Miscellaneous Management Facilities 9.4.5)


4.8  Geologic Resource Management


The Park Service will preserve and protect geologic resources as integral components of park natural systems. As used here, the term “geologic resources” includes both geologic features and geologic processes. The Service will (1) assess the impacts of natural processes and human activities on geologic resources; (2) maintain and restore the integrity of existing geologic resources; (3) integrate geologic resource management into Service operations and planning; and (4) interpret geologic resources for park visitors.


4.8.1  Protection of Geologic Processes

The Service will, except as identified below, allow natural geologic processes to proceed unimpeded. Geologic processes are the natural physical and chemical forces that act within natural systems and on human developments across a broad spectrum of space and time. Such processes include, but are not limited to, exfoliation, erosion and sedimentation, glaciation, karst processes, shoreline processes, and seismic and volcanic activity. Geologic processes will be addressed during planning and other management activities in an effort to reduce hazards that can threaten the safety of park visitors and staff and the long-term viability of the park infrastructure.


Intervention in natural geologic processes will be permitted only when


·         directed by Congress;

·         necessary in emergencies that threaten human life and property;

·         there is no other feasible way to protect natural resources, park facilities, or historic properties;

·         intervention is necessary to restore impacted conditions and processes, such as restoring habitat for threatened or endangered species.  Shorelines and Barrier Islands

Natural shoreline processes (such as erosion, deposition, dune formation, overwash, inlet formation, and shoreline migration) will be allowed to continue without interference.

Where human activities or structures have altered the nature or rate of natural shoreline processes, the Service will, in consultation with appropriate state and federal agencies, investigate alternatives for mitigating the effects of such activities or structures and for restoring natural conditions. The Service will comply with the provisions of Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management) and state coastal zone management plans prepared under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.


Any shoreline manipulation measures proposed to protect cultural resources may be approved only after an analysis of the degree to which such measures would impact natural resources and processes, so that an informed decision can be made through an assessment of alternatives.

Where erosion control is required by law, or where present developments must be protected in the short run to achieve park management objectives, including high-density visitor use, the Service will use the most effective method feasible to achieve the natural resource management objectives while minimizing impacts outside the target area.


New developments will not be placed in areas subject to wave erosion or active shoreline processes unless (1) the development is required by law; or (2) the development is essential to meet the park’s purposes, as defined by its establishing act or proclamation, and


·         no practicable alternative locations are available;

·         the development will be reasonably assured of surviving during its planned life span without the need for shoreline control measures; and

·         steps will be taken to minimize safety hazards and harm to property and natural resources.


(See Floodplains 4.6.4; Cultural Resources Chapter 5; Siting Facilities to Avoid Natural Hazards Also see Director’s Order #77-2: Floodplain Management)  Karst

The Service will manage karst terrain to maintain the inherent integrity of its water quality, spring flow, drainage patterns, and caves. Karst processes (the processes by which water dissolves soluble rock such as limestone) create areas typified by sinkholes, underground streams, caves, and springs.


Local and regional hydrological systems resulting from karst processes can be directly influenced by surface land use practices. If existing or proposed developments do or will significantly alter or adversely impact karst processes, these impacts will be mitigated. Where practicable, these developments will be placed where they will not have an effect on the karst system.  Geologic Hazards

Naturally occurring geologic processes, which the Park Service is charged to preserve unimpaired, can be hazardous to humans and park infrastructure. These include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mudflows, landslides, floods, shoreline processes, tsunamis, and avalanches. The Service will work closely with specialists at the U. S. Geological Survey and elsewhere, and with local, state, tribal, and federal disaster management officials, to devise effective geologic hazard identification and management strategies. Although the magnitude and timing of future geologic hazards are difficult to forecast, park managers will strive to understand future hazards and, once the hazards are understood, minimize their potential impact on visitors, staff, and developed areas. Before interfering with natural processes that are potentially hazardous, superintendents will consider other alternatives.


The Service will try to avoid placing new visitor and other facilities in geologically hazardous areas. Superintendents will examine the feasibility of phasing out, relocating, or providing alternative facilities for park developments subject to hazardous processes, consistent with other sections of these management policies.


(See Siting Facilities to Avoid Natural Hazards


4.8.2  Management of Geologic Features

The Service will protect geologic features from the unacceptable impacts of human activity while allowing natural processes to continue. The term “geologic features” describes the products and physical components of geologic processes. Examples of geologic features in parks include rocks, soils, and minerals; geysers and hot springs in geothermal systems; cave and karst systems; canyons and arches in erosional landscapes; sand dunes, moraines, and terraces in depositional landscapes; dramatic or unusual rock outcrops and formations; and paleontological and paleoecological resources such as fossilized plants or animals or their traces.  Paleontological Resources and Their Contexts

Paleontological resources, including both organic and mineralized remains in body or trace form, will be protected, preserved, and managed for public education, interpretation, and scientific research. The Service will study and manage paleontological resources in their paleoecological context (that is, in terms of the geologic data associated with a particular fossil that provides information about the ancient environment).


Superintendents will establish programs to inventory paleontological resources and systematically monitor for newly exposed fossils, especially in areas of rapid erosion. Scientifically significant resources will be protected by collection or by on-site protection and stabilization. The Service will encourage and help the academic community to conduct paleontological field research in accordance with the terms of a scientific research and collecting permit. Fossil localities and associated geologic data will be adequately documented when specimens are collected. Paleontological resources found in an archeological context are also subject to the policies for archeological resources. Paleontological specimens that are to be retained permanently are subject to the policies for museum objects.


The Service will take appropriate action to prevent damage to and unauthorized collection of fossils. To protect paleontological resources from harm, theft, or destruction, the Service will ensure, where necessary, that information about the nature and specific location of these resources remains confidential, in accordance with the National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998.


Parks will exchange fossil specimens only with other museums and public institutions that are dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of natural heritage and qualified to manage museum collections. Fossils to be deaccessioned in an exchange must fall outside the park’s scope of collection statement. Systematically collected fossils in an NPS museum collection in compliance with 36 CFR 2.5 cannot be outside the scope of collection statement.  Exchanges must follow deaccession procedures in the Museum Handbook, Part II, chapter 6.

The sale of original paleontological specimens is prohibited in parks.


The Service generally will avoid purchasing fossil specimens. Casts or replicas should be acquired instead. A park may purchase fossil specimens for the park museum collection only after making a written determination that


·         the specimens are scientifically significant and accompanied by detailed locality data and pertinent contextual data;

·         the specimens were legally removed from their site of origin, and all transfers of ownership have been legal;

·         the preparation of the specimens meets professional standards;

·         the alternatives for making these specimens available to science and the public are unlikely; and

·         acquisition is consistent with the park’s enabling legislation and scope of collection statement, and acquisition will ensure the specimens’ availability in perpetuity for public education and scientific research.


All NPS construction projects in areas with potential paleontological resources must be preceded by a preconstruction surface assessment prior to disturbance. For any occurrences noted, or when the site may yield paleontological resources, the site will be avoided or the resources will, if necessary, be collected and properly cared for before construction begins. Areas with potential paleontological resources must also be monitored during construction projects.


(See Natural Resource Information 4.1.2; Studies and Collections 4.2; Independent Research 5.1.2; Artifacts and Specimens Also see 36 CFR 2.5)  Caves

As used here, the term “caves” includes karst (such as limestone and gypsum caves) and nonkarst caves (such as lava tubes, littoral caves, and talus caves). The Service will manage caves in accordance with approved cave management plans to perpetuate the natural systems associated with the caves, such as karst and other drainage patterns, air flows, mineral deposition, and plant and animal communities. Wilderness and cultural resources and values will also be protected. 


Many caves or portions of caves contain fragile nonrenewable resources and have no natural restorative processes. In these cases, most impacts are cumulative and essentially permanent. As a result, no developments or uses, including those that allow for general public entry (such as pathways, lighting, and elevator shafts), will be allowed in, above, or adjacent to caves until it can be demonstrated that they will not unacceptably impact natural cave resources and conditions, including subsurface water movements, and that access will not result in unacceptable risks to public safety. Developments already in place above caves will be removed if they are impairing or threatening to impair natural conditions or resources.


Parks will manage the use of caves when such actions are required for the protection of cave resources or for human safety. Some caves or portions of caves may be managed exclusively for research, with access limited to permitted research personnel. In accordance with the Federal Cave Resource Protection Act of 1988, recreational use of undeveloped caves will be governed by a permit system, and cave use will be regulated or restricted if necessary to protect and preserve cave resources. Under 43 CFR Part 37 regulations for the act, all caves in the national park system are deemed to be significant. As further established by this act, specific locations of significant cave entrances may be kept confidential and exempted from FOIA requests.


(See Decision-making Requirements to Identify and Avoid Impairments 1.4.7; Information Confidentiality; Caves  Geothermal and Hydrothermal Resources

Thermal resources, also known as geothermal or hydrothermal systems, comprise a subsurface heat source, heat conduit rock formations, and air and/or water that circulates through the formations and may discharge at the surface. Such resources create features such as geysers, hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, unique/ rare mineral precipitates and formations, and hydrophilic biotic communities. Thermal resources in park units will be protected, preserved, and managed as a critical component of the units’ natural resource systems, and for public education, interpretation, and scientific research.


Superintendents will strive to maintain the natural integrity of thermal systems, including the movement of air and/or water through the heated rock, cold water recharge, the proximity of the hot and warm water to the heat source, and the hydrostatic pressure and elevated temperature.


Superintendents will work to prevent unacceptable impacts on thermal resources caused by development. Such impacts include the loss of surface thermal features; land subsidence; an increase in seismic activity; the release of noxious gases; noise and surface disturbance from drilling or power plant construction; and the release of polluted water or brines. Because thermal systems may extend well beyond park boundaries, the Service will work closely with tribes and federal, state, local agencies to delineate the full extent of thermal resources and protect those that occur in parks. In protecting park thermal resources, superintendents should consider authorities available under the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, as amended; state water rights; and mineral leasing laws.


As required by the Geothermal Steam Act, the Service will maintain a list of significant thermal features in park units. The criteria and procedures for designating significant thermal resources in parks are specified in the Geothermal Steam Act Amendments of 1988. In cooperation with the U. S. Geological Survey, the Service will conduct a monitoring program for the designated significant thermal features.  Soil Resource Management

The Service will actively seek to understand and preserve the soil resources of parks, and to prevent, to the extent possible, the unnatural erosion, physical removal, or contamination of the soil or its contamination of other resources. Parks will obtain adequate soil surveys for the management of park resources. All soil surveys will follow National Cooperative Soil Survey Standards. Products will include soil maps, determinations of the physical and chemical characteristics of soils, and the interpretations needed to guide resource management and development decisions.


Management action will be taken by superintendents to prevent or at least minimize adverse, potentially irreversible impacts on soils. Soil conservation and soil amendment practices may be implemented to reduce impacts. Importation of off-site soil or soil amendments may be used to restore damaged sites. Off-site soil normally will be salvaged soil, not soil removed from pristine sites, unless the use of pristine site soil can be achieved without causing any overall ecosystem impairment. Before using any off-site materials, parks must develop a prescription and select the materials that will be needed to restore the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of original native soils without introducing any exotic species.


When soil excavation is an unavoidable part of an approved facility development project, the Service will minimize soil excavation, erosion, and off-site soil migration during and after the development activity.


When use of a soil fertilizer or other soil amendment is an unavoidable part of restoring a natural landscape or maintaining an altered plant community, the use will be guided by a written prescription. The prescription will be designed to ensure that such use of soil fertilizer or soil amendment does not unacceptably alter the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of the soil, biological community, or surface or groundwaters.


(See Evaluating Impacts on Natural Resources 4.1.3; Natural Resource Collections 4.2.3; Floodplains 4.6.4; Wetlands 4.6.5; Facility Planning and Design 9.1.1)


4.9  Soundscape Management


Park natural soundscape resources encompass all the natural sounds that occur in parks, including the physical capacity for transmitting those natural sounds and the interrelationships among park natural sounds of different frequencies and volumes. Natural sounds occur within and beyond the range of sounds that humans can perceive, and they can be transmitted through air, water, or solid materials. The National Park Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural soundscapes of parks.


Some natural sounds in the natural soundscape are also part of the biological or other physical resource components of the park. Examples of such natural sounds include


·         sounds produced by birds, frogs, or katydids to define territories or aid in attracting mates

·         sounds produced by bats or porpoises to locate prey or navigate

·         sounds received by mice or deer to detect and avoid predators or other danger

·         sounds produced by physical processes, such as wind in the trees, claps of thunder, or falling water.


The Service will restore to the natural condition wherever possible those park soundscapes that have become degraded by unnatural sounds (noise), and will protect natural soundscapes from unacceptable impacts.


Using appropriate management planning, superintendents will identify what levels and types of unnatural sound constitute acceptable impacts on park natural soundscapes. The frequencies, magnitudes, and durations of acceptable levels of unnatural sound will vary throughout a park, being generally greater in developed areas. In and adjacent to parks, the Service will monitor human activities that generate noise that adversely affects park soundscapes, including noise caused by mechanical or electronic devices. The Service will take action to prevent or minimize all noise that through frequency, magnitude, or duration adversely affects the natural soundscape or other park resources or values, or that exceeds levels that have been identified through monitoring as being acceptable to or appropriate for visitor uses at the sites being monitored.


(See General 4.1; Cultural Soundscape Management; Recreational Activities 8.2.2; Use of Motorized Equipment 8.2.3; Overflights and Aviation Uses 8.4. Also see 36 CFR 2.12: Audio Disturbances)


4.10  Lightscape Management


The Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural lightscapes of parks, which are natural resources and values that exist in the absence of human-caused light. The absence of light in areas such as caves and at the bottom of deep bodies of water influences biological processes and the evolution of species, such as the blind cave fish. The phosphorescence of waves on dark nights helps hatchling sea turtles orient to the ocean. The stars, planets, and earth’s moon that are visible during clear nights influence humans and many other species of animals, such as birds that navigate by the stars or prey animals that reduce their activities during moonlit nights.


Improper outdoor lighting can impede the view and visitor enjoyment of a natural dark night sky. Recognizing the roles that light and dark periods and darkness play in natural resource processes and the evolution of species, the Service will protect natural darkness and other components of the natural lightscape in parks. To prevent the loss of dark conditions and of natural night skies, the Service will minimize light that emanates from park facilities, and also seek the cooperation of park visitors, neighbors, and local government agencies to prevent or minimize the intrusion of artificial light into the night scene of the ecosystems of parks. The Service will not use artificial lighting in areas such as sea turtle nesting locations where the presence of the artificial lighting will disrupt a park’s dark-dependent natural resource components.


The Service will


·         restrict the use of artificial lighting in parks to those areas where security, basic human safety, and specific cultural resource requirements must be met;

·         use minimal-impact lighting techniques; 

·         shield the use of artificial lighting where necessary to prevent the disruption of the night sky, natural cave processes, physiological processes of living organisms, and similar natural processes.


The decision about whether or not to install artificial lighting in particular circumstances is left to the discretion of the superintendent and is made through the planning process.


(See Cooperative Conservation Beyond Park Boundaries 1.6; Visitor Safety and Emergency Response 8.2.5, Facility Planning and Design 9.1.1; Integration of Facilities into the Park Environment; Energy Management 9.1.7)




4.11  Chemical Information and Odors


Natural chemicals and odors transmit information that is received by living organisms. Natural chemicals involved in the transmission of information are released by animals, plants, and geologic materials. Once released, these chemicals can be transmitted through air and water. Many animals can perceive these natural chemicals and modify their behaviors, such as mating, migration, feeding, predator avoidance, prey selection, and the establishment of social structures, as a response. Specific examples of relationships that involve natural chemical information and odors include, among others,


·         scent posts where one animal deposits one or more chemicals by rubbing, urination, defecation, or other means, and where other animals can detect the passage of the first animal because of the odor produced by a deposited chemical;

·         flowers that produce odors that attract insects, birds, and other animals, with resulting cross-pollination of the flowers and reproduction of the species as the outcome;

·         female insects that release chemicals (pheromones) that attract males, with fertilization of the female’s eggs and reproduction of the species as the outcome;

·         stressed trees that emit chemicals that some types of beetles use to find weakened trees, which they then successfully can colonize and use as habitat for reproducing themselves; and

·         geologic materials (soils or bedrock) that emit characteristic chemicals that fish can sense and use as guides to find the places in streams where they hatched and where they subsequently return to breed and deposit fertilized eggs, with reproduction of the species as the outcome.


The Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural flow of natural chemical information and odors by preventing (1) the release of human-generated chemicals that can block the release, deposition, or perception of natural chemicals; and (2) human actions that disrupt or commingle the pathways through which natural chemicals are dispersed.


The Service acknowledges that some of its management activities may necessarily alter the natural flow of natural chemical information and odors. The Service may, for example,


·         introduce pesticides or pheromones into parks as part of an integrated pest management program;

·         construct and operate intensive development areas that eliminate animal scent stations and introduce unnatural chemicals;

·         change the vegetation and thereby change the kinds of natural plant chemicals released to the air;

·         move water from one drainage to another through water and sewer systems; or

·         provide for the use of exhaust-emitting motors in the air, on land, and on water.

Whenever the Service engages in activities that disrupt the natural flow of natural chemical information or odors, it will comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and policies and seek to minimize harm to the environment. In no case will the Service engage in an activity if it will impair park resources or values.