The preservation and management of natural resources found within the parks of the National Park System are guided by two major functional areas – planning and compliance. Each park within the National Park System should have a broad General Management Plan that outlines general objectives and goals and lays out strategies for achieving those. Tiered off of the General Management Plans are more specific plans, including the Comprehensive Interpretive Plan and the Resource Stewardship Plan (formerly known as the Resources Management Plan). Finally, tiered below those plans is a set of action plans such as a Fire Management Plan, Wildlife Management Plans, and Integrated Pest Management Plans. This latter tier is usually very detailed and specific. Park staff members charged with managing resources are generally heavily involved in the development of these plans.
In addition to planning documents, which guide the management of park resources and the development of park facilities, park staff members look to various pieces of environmental legislation to guide management decisions. Primary amongst those is the National Environmental Policy Act. This and other laws require the National Park Service to evaluate the impacts of management decisions, construction projects, and park operations; to consider alternatives to proposed actions; and to assess public comments. Specific procedures are often stipulated to assure that “compliance” with the spirit and intent of these laws is met. Resource management staff is charged with the responsibility of implementing the procedures associated with each of these laws.
The following document provides a very brief overview of the National Environmental Policy Act and abbreviations frequently used in the planning process:Understanding NEPA and NEPA Abbreviations