Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Badlands National Park

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

striped brown cliffs and heavy erosion
Heavily eroded cliffs in Badlands National Park

NPS/Mackenzie Reed

Badlands National Park is located in the mixed prairie grasslands of southwestern South Dakota. The park is composed of 242,756 acres, more than a quarter of which are designated as Wilderness. The park is characterized by spectacular scenery, including highly eroded landforms creating a uniquely dense collection of rutted ravines, serrated towers, pinnacles, and gulches. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here, and the park is now home to bison, big horn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets. The park contains places of spiritual and historical significance to the Lakota people. The rugged beauty of the Badlands draws visitors from around the world.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2018

In order to better understand the natural resources and processes in the park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was written and published in 2018. The condition assessment for Badlands National Park began with a facilitated discussion engaging both park leadership and natural resource managers. NPS natural resource experts, park staff, and network personnel identified nineteen key resources to evaluate:

- Viewshed

- Black-tailed Prairie Dogs

- Night Sky

- Black-footed Ferrets

- Soundscape

- Bison

- Air Quality

- Swift Fox

- Surface Water Quality

- Bats

- Geology

- Bighorn Sheep

- Paleontological Resources

- Bobcats

- Vegetation

- Mule Deer

- Birds

- Herpetofauna (Reptiles and Amphibians)

- Pollinators

Five of the natural resources evaluated were considered to be in good condition: viewshed, night sky, bighorn sheep, bobcat, and mule deer; nine resources were given a condition rating of moderate concern: soundscape, air quality, surface water quality, geology, vegetation, bison, bats, herpetofauna and pollinators; four resources were given a condition rating of significant concern: paleontological resources, prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets, and swift fox; and the condition of birds could not be determined.

Key challenges identified include potential future vulnerability of Badlands National Park to land use changes and activities on adjacent lands, and the importance of staying informed of impending changes in the surrounding towns and counties that could affect park resources. Communicating effectively with neighbors is key to protecting park resources. Additionally, park managers emphasized the importance of continued collection of natural resources monitoring and inventory data for a variety of natural resources and prioritized maintaining a consistent monitoring program.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: December 16, 2022


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