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Inventory and Monitoring of Park Natural Resources

Discovering and protecting America’s natural heritage

From the spectacular mountain ranges and glacier fields of Alaska to the Sonoran deserts of the American Southwest, from the volcanic landscapes of Hawaii to the magnificent barrier islands of the northeastern United States, the National Park Service acts as steward for natural resources that have inspired, awed, and brought enjoyment for more than a century. Responsible for nearly 80 million acres of public land, the National Park Service preserves and protects some of the world's most scenic and important natural resources. In support of NPS’ Natural Resource Challenge, the goal of the National Park Service's Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring Program is to acquire the information and expertise needed by park managers in their efforts to maintain ecosystem integrity in the approximately 270 National park System units that contain significant natural resources.

Five long-term goals have been established for the Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring Program:

  • Baseline inventories of basic biological and geophysical natural resources are underway for all natural resource parks. To ensure availability to park managers, data collected at the park level is maintained in the park and also used to generate regional and national summaries of selected inventory items.
  • Long-term monitoring programs efficiently and effectively monitor ecosystem status and trends over time at various spatial scales.
  • Decision Support Geographic information systems and other tools that apply field data aid park managers in identifying alternative management actions, assessing trade-offs, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Integration Natural resources inventory and monitoring programs are integrated with park planning, operation and maintenance, visitor protection, and interpretation activities to establish natural resource preservation and protection as an integral part of park management.
  • Cooperation The National Park Service is actively cooperating with other federal and state agencies to share resources, achieve common goals, and avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and expense. Every effort is being made to develop cost-sharing and technology exchange agreements with other agencies conducting inventories or monitoring.


The Inventory and Monitoring Program creates an important foundation for effective, long-term management of natural resources throughout the Service. Resource inventories constitute a critical first step; they inform park managers about the nature of the resources held in trust. The expertise gained through prototype monitoring programs will allow park managers to more effectively detect changes and quantify trends in the condition of those resources, as well as understand the linkages between changes in resource condition and their cause. When fully operational, monitoring programs will provide important feedback between natural resource condition and management objectives, which can serve both to trigger management actions and to evaluate managerial effectiveness. By developing this type of sound technical information on park resources and ecological processes, the Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring Program will improve NPS’ natural resource stewardship capabilities.

updated on 10/08/2003   I   /managingprotecting/inventoryandmonitoring.htm   I  Email:Webmaster
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