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Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve Air Quality Information


Craters of the Moon NM & P, Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (NM&P), in southern Idaho, was established in 1924 to preserve parts of the Great Rift, an area of volcanic cones, craters, lava flows, and caves. In 1970, a portion of the monument was designated wilderness, which now totals 43,243 acres. In 1977, the Craters of the Moon Wilderness was named a Class I air quality area, receiving the highest protection under the Clean Air Act. In 2000, over 661,000 acres were added to the monument; in 2002, 410,000 acres of this additional area was designated as a National Preserve. Craters of the Moon NM&P contain three major lava fields covering almost half a million acres and a quarter million acres of sagebrush steppe.

Both near and distant air pollutant emission sources affect air quality in Craters of the Moon NM&P. The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory is located 25 km east of the Wilderness Area and emits significant amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and is the highest emitter of hazardous air pollutants in the state. Pocatello, located 80 km southeast of the Wilderness Area, has large mineral and chemical plants with significant emissions. There are several sugarbeet processing plants in southern Idaho. In addition, mining operations and agricultural activities (including field burning), windblown dust from fields and roads, and wildland fires contribute air pollution to the monument. Distant sources, including coal-fired power plants, industrial facilities, and agricultural and wildland fires also affect air quality in the monument.

The air quality related values (AQRVs) of Craters of the Moon NM&P are those resources that are potentially sensitive to air pollution and include visibility, water quality, soils, vegetation, and wildlife.

Visibility is a very sensitive AQRV in Craters of the Moon NM&P. Although visibility in the monument is still superior to that in many parts of the country, visibility in the monument is often impaired by light-scattering pollutants (haze) from near and distant air pollution sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Haze regulations require States to establish goals for each Class I air quality area to improve visibility on the haziest days and ensure no degradation occurs on the clearest days. Visibility in the monument is monitored as part of the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) network, using an aerosol sampler (1992-present) and an automatic 35mm camera (1982-2001).

Craters of the Moon NM&P has few aquatic resources, with just two streams, scattered water holes and ice caves. Water quality monitoring data indicate that the streams are well buffered but occasionally have pH values slightly lower than the EPA criterion (pH 6.5) for the protection of freshwater aquatic life. Copper and zinc also exceed their respective EPA criteria. Water quality is more likely affected by local influences, like leachate from mine tailings, than by atmospheric deposition of acidifying pollutants (nitrogen and sulfur).

Soils and vegetation in the monument may be sensitive to nitrogen deposition. In some parts of the country nitrogen deposition has altered soil nutrient cycling and vegetation species composition; native plants that have evolved under nitrogen-poor conditions have been replaced by invasive species that are able to take advantage of increased nitrogen levels. It is not known if nitrogen deposition is affecting soils and vegetation in the monument, but data for wet deposition from 1993-2003 indicate that deposition of nitrogen is increasing in the monument. Deposition of sulfur is decreasing.

Wet deposition of atmospheric pollutants has been monitored in Craters of the Moon NM&P since 1980 as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN). The site ID is ID03. No dry deposition estimates are available for the area.

Several plant species that occur in Craters of the Moon NM&P, including Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) and Salix scouleriana (Scouler’s willow), are known to be sensitive to ozone. Ozone has been monitored in the monument with a continuous analyzer from 1992- present. Data indicate that ozone concentrations and doses are approaching levels known to cause injury to vegetation. Ozone increased significantly from 1993-2002 and may be cause for concern in the future. No systematic surveys to assess vegetation injury have been performed in the monument.

Additional information on in-park emissions at Craters of the Moon NM&P is available in 2001 Air Emissions Inventory- Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (October 2003).

Additional information relative to air quality and air quality related values at Craters of the Moon NM&P is available in J. Eilers et al. 1994. Status of Air Quality and Effects of Atmospheric Pollutants in the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Park Service. National Park Service. Denver, CO.

updated on 02/21/2006  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Permits/aris/crmo/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster