Each national park’s acoustical environment expresses natural and cultural sounds unique to that place. A combination of influences contributes, including cultural-historic features, wilderness character, wildlife communication and behavior, wildlife habitat, and ecological processes. The NPS considers these sounds to be essential park resources. The goals of acoustic resource management are to protect this acoustic environment.
Learn about the types of sounds we protect in national parks at Sounds We Protect.
The quality of park resources depends on proactive management of sounds and the reduction of noise in national parks. Changes in human use and land use patterns continually change the acoustic environment, which impacts sound resources. As these threats increase, so, too, does the need for acoustic management. Park resource planning is an essential step in addressing threats to park resources from noise or other changes to the acoustic environment.
Preservation of the acoustic environment and noise management can be accomplished in all aspects of park management. The Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division helps parks incorporate the protection of acoustical environments into all types of park management plans, whether they are long-range plans (e.g., General Management Plans), shorter-term resource plans (e.g., Wilderness Management Plans, Soundscape Management Plans) or noise-source specific plans (e.g., Air Tour Management Plans, Transportation Plans). Division scientists work with parks to assess the quality of the acoustic environment, and make recommendations for best practice.
Parks can reduce the effects of noise by using quieter machines and motors, creating acoustic barriers to contain noisy activities, scheduling noisy activities at times of least impact, creating quiet zones, and encouraging quiet etiquette from park visitors.