Discovering America’s natural
Preserving the unimpaired splendor of the national parks
for the enjoyment of future generations is the fundamental
purpose of the National Park Service. This mission includes
protecting the clear, star- filled skies over places like
the Grand Canyon and ensuring that creatures like the
and black -footed ferret grace our lands in perpetuity.
The safekeeping of the awe-inspiring natural wonders in
our national parks requires the identification of their
key components, including living things, natural processes,
and landscape features. Natural resource inventories allow
managers to account for park resources, such as the presence
and distribution of plants, animals, and nonliving resources
such as water, landforms, and climate in the parks. This
type of baseline information is needed to make scientifically
sound management decisions that ensure the future health
of the parks.
The National Park Service is undergoing a comprehensive
inventory effort under the Natural
Resource Challenge program.
The goal is to help every park with significant
natural resources complete basic inventories, documenting
such things as soils, vegetation, biological diversity,
geologic resources, and water
quality. In order to reach this ambitious goal, the National
Park Service has organized parks into 32 networks.
Individual networks will link parks that share similar
geographic and natural resource characteristics to facilitate
collaboration, information sharing, and cost savings.
Each network will develop systematic approaches for inventorying
the plants and animals found in its parks.
To ensure that inventories result in
the highest-quality scientific information possible, the
National Park Service is working with scientists from
other agencies with expertise in specialized areas. Additionally,
inventory efforts are being closely coordinated to ensure
that they satisfy the following important criteria.
- Inventories produce the “core”
or baseline information that park managers need to effectively
manage and protect park resources.
- Inventories are being conducted in
accordance with specified protocols and quality assurance
- Data obtained through the inventories
are compatible, allowing for synthesis and analysis
at broader levels.
Inventories not conducted by networks,
including partnership efforts with other
state and federal agencies, are being coordinated by the
Natural Resource Program Center in Colorado. For example,
the National Park Service is working cooperatively with
agencies to produce geologic maps and assessments. Similarly,
the National Park
Service has partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey
to develop vegetation maps that will be used for resource
management activities, including fire management. Partnerships
National Park Service to acquire inventory data in an
efficient, timely, and cost-effective manner.
Through the inventory process the National
Park Service will begin to realize its potential as a
major force in fundamental research on biological diversity,
ecology, and conservation.
Basic Natural Resource Inventories
Bibliographies of existing research are made available
to all parks to help them identify inventory needs.
- Base Cartography
Digital cartographic products that park managers need
to prepare maps and perform spatial analyses and assessments
are being acquired.
Lists of the vertebrates and vascular plants currently
known to occur in
parks have been and continue to be compiled and verified.
New field inventories are documenting additional species,
especially those in plant and animal groups left out
of previous inventories.
New field inventories are also focusing on the distribution
of species of concern to managers, including threatened
and endangered species and exotics.
All parks will be provided maps of their vegetative
communities based on recent aerial photography and following
a standard classification.
- Soil Resources
Soils maps are being created for parks through a partnership
with the Natural
Resource Conservation Service. Additional products include
data about physical and chemical properties of those
soils and information derived from those data about
potentialities and problems of use on each kind of soil
Geologic maps and digital products for parks are being
completed through partnerships with
the U.S. Geological Survey and state geologic agencies.
Also included are an on-site evaluation of park geologic
maps, resources and issues and a geologic report with
basic geologic information on geologic setting and history,
geologic hazards, and other geologic related issues.
The locations of streams, lakes, and wetlands are being
Water quality information is being collected for all
“key” water bodies found in the parks.
- Air Quality
Where the National Park Service does not have its own
data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality
monitoring stations near parks are
being summarized into an air quality atlas to assess
air quality conditions in parks.
- Air Quality-Related
Basic air quality-related information includes identification
of visibility and
other park resources that may be affected by air quality.
will be available through a Web-based computer program.
Basic meteorological parameters such as precipitation
and daily temperature
are being collected.