For the more information about water resources in the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/.
Implementing the National Park Service Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan
The National Park Service is entrusted with managing 84 ocean and Great Lakes parks across 26 states. Established for their beauty and national significance, these parks conserve over 11,000 miles of coast and 2.5 million acres of ocean and Great Lakes waters, including coral reefs, kelp forests, glaciers, estuaries, beaches, wetlands, historic forts, and shipwrecks. The ocean and coastal parks comprise a system of tremendous biological and recreational value to the nation. They attract over 86 million visitors each year and generate over $6 billion in economic benefits to local communities. However, park managers are confronted by multiple threats to natural and cultural resources from inside and outside of park boundaries.
Intense population growth and development, overfishing, climate change, pollution and watershed degradation, shoreline impacts from infrastructure and sea-level rise, invasive species, and recreational overuse are taking their toll on park resources. To better address these issues, the National Park Service in 2006 released the Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan. The Plan was developed to increase the emphasis on restoring and conserving park marine and estuarine resources. The Plan also responds to the President’s 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan and the 2001 National Park System Advisory Board Report Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century . The Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan sharpens scientific focus and forms a policy of addressing the protection of ocean and Great Lakes parks cooperatively with our federal, state, and private partners. Subsequent to issuing this plan, each of the National Park Service Regions with ocean or Great Lakes Parks prepared more focused Regional Ocean Stewardship Action Plans.
Highlights of NPS Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan and Supporting Actions:
I. Discover, Map, and Protect Ocean Parks. Greater emphasis is placed on describing ocean and coastal habitats and wildlife, assessing and monitoring their condition, and managing them to conserve resources for future generations.
- Habitat Maps and Species Inventories. Habitat maps are lacking for submerged portions of most ocean and Great Lakes parks, and the distribution and abundance of marine organisms in these habitats are largely unknown. The National Park Service is partnering with the USGS and NOAA on demonstration projects to develop benthic habitat maps. The projects mark the beginning of a service-wide ocean and Great Lakes habitat mapping program that provides technical guidance to parks in partnership with USGS, NOAA, states, and academia.
- Watershed Condition Assessments. The National Park Service is systematically assessing the condition of coastal resources and identifying threats to watershed health. As of 2009, assessments were complete in 32 parks and underway in 15 other ocean and Great Lakes parks. Coastal Watershed Condition Assessment Reports
- Restoration of Fish and Coastal Wetlands. The National Park Service is using funds from park fees to restore estuarine habitats at five parks. The State of Florida approved the final regulation for the Dry Tortugas National Park Research Natural Area, a new “no-take” marine reserve that will provide full protection for coral reefs, seagrasses, and fishes. The USGS, NPS, and NOAA committed $1.2 million to support scientific evaluations of the Research Natural Area and other reserves in Dry Tortugas and Virgin Islands parks.
- Storm Response. The National Park Service is creating a prototype post-storm recovery plan at Cape Lookout National Seashore to help parks can protect resources while addressing damaged infrastructure, visitation, debris removal, and road clearing or rebuilding. Resource Advisors have also been trained to join post-storm Incident Management Teams. An inventory of coastal engineering projects that have altered coastal processes in parks is also underway.
- Marine Monitoring. Inventory and Monitoring Programs are being conducted for ocean and coastal resources, often in conjunction with regional or national monitoring programs of NOAA and USGS.
- Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise: An assessment of coastal park vulnerability to sea level rise is be implemented for selected ocean parks using funding acquired through park fees.
II. Engage visitors in ocean park stewardship.
- Cooperative boater education programs and navigational aids are being provided to 11 parks to prevent damage to seagrass beds and coral reefs from boat groundings and anchor damage, and to reduce disturbance to marine mammals and birds.
- Recreational scuba divers are conducting surveys of fish populations in four parks during the Great Annual Fish Count, similar to the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This program is being expanded at Channel Islands and Dry Tortugas.
- A Coastal Geology module is now available on the online Views of the National Parks site and on a CD.
III. Establish a Seamless Network of ocean parks, sanctuaries, refuges and estuarine reserves.
- Pursuant to the 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan, the Department of Interior and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed an interagency “Seamless Network” agreement in 2006 to expand joint monitoring, assessment, enforcement, and management of ocean resources among the National Parks, US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuges, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries and Estuarine Research Reserves.
Last Updated: February 02, 2012