Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Mount Rainier 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.

A rock outcrop on a ridge overlooks a wildflower meadow.
Spray Park and Hessong Rock.

NPS Photo.

Mount Rainier National Park is located in west-central Washington, within the Cascade Range. The summit of Mount Rainier, an active volcano and the focal point of the park, reaches elevations of over 14,000 feet, and is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States. Forest, subalpine, and alpine vegetation zones stretch across the park, providing habitat to 65 mammal species, 14 species of amphibians, 5 species of reptiles, 182 species of birds, and 14 species of native fish, as well as supporting an extensive number of plant species.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2014

In order to better understand the natural resources and processes within Mount Rainier National Park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was conducted and published in 2014. Representatives from the National Park Service, US Geological Survey, and the University of Washington collaborated to evaluate park needs and available data. This team chose 19 resource topics to assess:

- Air quality and related values

- Biodiversity: subalpine vegetation

- Lake water quality

- Biodiversity: sensitive vegetation species

- Stream water quality

- Amphibians

- Landscape-scale vegetation dynamics

- Fish species in streams and lakes

- Forest health: disturbance regime

- Land birds

- Forest health: whitebark pine and white pine blister rust

- Mammalian fauna

- Forest health: air quality effects

- Glaciers

- Fire ecology

- Soundscape

- Biodiversity: exotic plants

- Dark night skies

Overall, many of the natural resource topics assessed were identified as having some documented signs of moderate to significant change and degradation; and 10 of these categories were estimated to have been seriously to significantly disturbed. Changing temperatures and precipitation trends are expected to have an impact on plant community structures, fish communities, snowpack, and landscape disturbances such as fire frequency and intensity. Continued monitoring will be required for park managers to develop adaptive management of natural resources in the future.

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: June 30, 2022


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