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Professional Review of a Great System
History and Structure of the U.S. National Park System
Since the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, the world's first national park, by act of Congress in 1872, the American National Park System (the System) has grown into an assemblage of more than 360 units. These units comprise "some 20" (Mackintosh 1991) types of areas, including (among others) national parks, monuments, seashores, preserves, recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, historic sites, and battlefields. They occur in almost every state and are distributed from Alaska to Guam, Hawaii, and American Samoa on the west; and from Maine to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on the east. In total, they represent a magnificent and invaluable collection of remnants and relics of natural and cultural wonders of the nation, and of its pre-and post-Columbian history, a collective museum of incalculable educational, cultural, scenic, and scientific value. Some are classified among the natural wonders of the world.
National Park Service (NPS) historian Richard Sellars (1989) comments that "scenic preservation was the major factor at the beginning of the national park system." Caughley and Sinclair (1994:268) contrast the "philosophical springs" from which the African and American national parks flowed, the former to preserve great wildlife resources and the latter to protect spectacular scenery. Indeed many of the major American parks and monuments (e.g., Grand Canyon, Hawaii Volcanoes, Yosemite, Glacier Bay) were established primarily to protect and make available to the American public scenic and geologic wonders.
But Caughley and Sinclair's dichotomy no longer holds for today's System. Many of the American areas were established primarily to conserve unique and spectacular biotas: coral reefs, wading-bird populations, desert vegetation, forests. In fact, elements of this concern go back as far as the passage of the National Parks Organic Act, which, in 1916, stipulated that:
The fundamental purpose of said parks is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
The first monograph in the NPS series, Fauna of the National Parks of the United States (Wright et al. 1933), set forth a "Suggested National-Park Policy for the Vertebrates."
Moreover, despite the variety of purposes for the areas, 250 of them have "significant" natural resources (Michael Ruggiero, personal communication, February 24, 1992). Many of those established to preserve cultural features develop wildlife problems that impinge on their primary purposes. On some recreation areas, NPS officials manage biological resources according to the same policies set for parks (Freemuth 1991). And in a Park Service symposium in Denver on March 18, 1990, John Dennis, chief of the Science Branch of the NPS Wildlife and Vegetation Division, commented that all NPS units are encouraged to preserve their native biotas. Thus the status and management of biological resources are major policy issues in the System, ranging from preservation of the biota to problems of controlling plants and animals that, for whatever reasons, are detrimental to units of the System.
The System is administered by the National Park Service, which employs over 12,000 permanent personnel (Risser et al. 1992) and perhaps twice as many on a temporary or seasonal basis. Its central administrative office in Washington, D.C., is presided over by a director and a deputy director, both political appointees. The Service has had 14 directors in its 88-year history, seven of whom had prior NPS experience (Mackintosh 1991). Four of the remaining seven had had some professional administrative experience in the natural-resources field. Average term in office of six of the first seven directors was approximately 10 years (Arthur Demaray, who served only eight months in 1951, was not included in this average). But the six directors between 1973 and 1993 averaged only 3.7 years.
The director and deputy are assisted by five associate directors who supervise programs that essentially have staff functions: Natural Resources, Cultural Resources, Park Operations, Budget and Administration, and Planning and Development. The associate director for Natural Resources administers four divisions: Wildlife and Vegetation, Water Resources, Air Quality, and Geographic Information Systems (M. Ruggiero, personal communication, February 24, 1992). Park Operations is subdivided into five functions: Resource Management, Interpretation, Law Enforcement, Maintenance, and Administration.
As this is written in mid-1994, NPS is divided into ten regions, with the agency's line authority flowing from the director to the deputy director to regional directors to park superintendents. However, consideration is being given to reorganizing the agency by condensing the ten regions into seven field directorates, each with a field director. The line authority would then flow from the deputy director to the field directors to the superintendents. Consideration is also being given to combining the Natural Resources and Cultural Resources divisions and abolishing one associate directorship.
A Review of System Wildlife Policies
This book is the product of a five-year review of management policies for biological resources in the System, with special attention to the wildlife. The wildlife profession has long maintained concern for the welfare of wildlife resources in the System. Concern developed over the impacts of a rising elk population on the Yellowstone biota as far back as the 1920s with the work of M. P. Skinner (1928) and NPS biologist William Rush (1932); similar concerns expanded to a number of western parks in the early 1930s with the work of George M. Wright. This independently wealthy park naturalist decided that the biological resources of the System were so important that he began a program at his own expense to survey the fauna of the national parks. By the 1940s, wildlife research was under way in a number of parks (cf. Ratcliffe and Sumner 1945, Aldous and Krefting 1946, Kittams 1959).
Following something of a lull during World War II, professional concerns continued. In an undated position paper in late 1961 or 1962, six wildlife professors at (then) Montana State University (Missoula) and two employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based on the M.S.U. campus endorsed Yellowstone's reduction of its elk herd. Leslie Pengelly, one of the paper's authors, would later be elected president of The Wildlife Society (TWS), the professional organization of wildlife scientists and managers. The paper was sent to NPS director Conrad L. Wirth. On March 2, then–TWS president E. L. Cheatum (1962) wrote one of the authors complimenting him on the report, which he considered "highly professional" and "ethically proper."
On December 3, 1962, the new TWS president, Wendell G. Swank, sent to all Society members a position paper (Anon. 1962a) entitled "Statement Regarding Control of Excess Wildlife Populations within National Parks." The paper left the door open for public hunting in national parks if carefully considered and controlled, something the Montana State University document recommended against. But the statement's major concern was with proper management of wildlife populations, and it approved population reduction by NPS employees if needed.
In 1961, Secretary of Interior Stewart L. Udall appointed an advisory board on wildlife management. Comprised of four eminent wildlife professionals and University of Michigan plant ecologist Stanley A. Cain, the board was chaired by A. S. Leopold, who also served as president of TWS. One of its charges was to review wildlife management in the national parks. The board's report, "Wildlife Management in the National Parks" (A. S. Leopold et al. 1963) was submitted to Secretary Udall on March 4, 1963; Chairman Leopold also presented it to the wildlife profession on the same date before the 28th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Detroit.
During the 1970s, NPS director Gary Everhardt called on the services of a national parks advisory board, of which A. S. Leopold was a member. Durward L. Allen, former chief of research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and also a TWS president, was a member of the board's council. Allen and Leopold (1977) submitted a 15-page memorandum to Director Everhardt on the NPS Natural Science Program. In 1981, the council, now chaired by Allen, reported to Secretary of Interior James G. Watt on "a review and recommendations on animal problems and related management needs in units of the National Park System" (Erickson et al. 1981).
In 1988 TWS president James G. Teer, concerned about the condition of wildlife resources in a number of national parks, authorized formation of the TWS Ad Hoc Committee on National Park Policies and Strategies. In a letter to F. H. Wagner, whom he appointed as chair, Teer (1988) charged:
The committee ... to examine and evaluate policies and strategies that are being used in management of lands and life under jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Of course, results of policies and management strategies are expressed in the conditions of national parks ecosystems and the life in it. Interaction of elk with vegetation in the North Range of Yellowstone National Park is but one example of these policies. Goats in Olympic National Park is another, and feral pigs in Great Smoky Mountain National Park is still another. While you will certainly consider these situations in your evaluations, the challenge is to evaluate their causes. Biological problems are often the result of political decisions that direct policy.
The study continued through 1992, and first and second drafts of the committee report were finished on January 2 and May 1 of 1993. Then–TWS president Hal Salwasser appointed a council subcommittee to review the report and make recommendations.
The subcommittee conducted its own review and also sought reactions from two outside reviewers. The lengthy, excellent comments from both of these sources were incorporated into a third draft, which was then submitted to the council subcommittee on September 7, 1993. We extend our appreciation for the many helpful suggestions provided by subcommittee members Len H. Carpenter, Thomas H. Franklin, Nova Silvy, and especially Chairman James M. Peek for his detailed comments. And we are equally appreciative of comments from external reviewers Duncan T. Patten and David R. Stevens. While the great majority of the comments were incorporated in Draft 3, they should not be held responsible for errors of fact or interpretation, or necessarily for the philosophical positions of this work.
The review subcommittee recommended acceptance of Draft 3 to the council at its September 1993 meeting. During a subsequent November telephone poll, council members voted acceptance subject to unspecified editorial treatment of the final version and approved release if marked a draft. But thereafter fundamental differences arose between the authors and the council over the length, content, and general message of the report; and the council reversed its decision to allow release of a draft. On December 13, 1993, the committee withdrew the report from submission to the council and elected to publish it independently. This book is the final version of that effort, its substance essentially that of Draft 3 with only minor modification, and its authors the members of the former Ad Hoc Committee.
Philosophy of This Review
We have adopted a central philosophy for this review that we believe is consistent with the emerging protocols for setting public policies on natural resources. Our basic premise is that national parks are a public resource established to satisfy societal values. The National Park Service is the professional organization charged both with ensuring, through its management programs, that the resource fulfills the public's values and with protecting the resource so that its values endure in perpetuity.
Policies are prescriptions for management programs designed to guide the agency in making good on its dual charge. A vital component in the entire process is the goals set for both the National Park System and the individual parks. Goals serve the pivotal roles of addressing and serving the public values, as well as being focal points toward which policies and management are directed.
Since goals are established to satisfy public values, setting them should be a public process. There is no reason why the personal values of a small group of professionals, or indeed an entire profession, should weigh disproportionately in goal establishment. For this reason, we do not in this work advocate wildlife-management goals and policies for the System and individual parks, although we all have personal values that we attach to this treasure. Hence, this review differs from previous reviews which did so advocate.
Because goals serve as beacons toward which policies strive, policies, and the management they prescribe, are best analyzed, perhaps only appropriately analyzed, in the context of how effectively they fulfill public values and achieve public goals. This analytic approach is the central theme of this review.
In our view the unique role that the wildlife profession, and indeed all professions, can fill is a dual one. First, it can evaluate and render scientific judgments on the technical consequences of contemplated, alternative goal and policy options, without value-based advocacy of preferences among them. Second, it can critique how well current policies and programs are reaching those goals that are in place. In our opinion, the professions have an ethical obligation to be self-critical. As Aldo Leopold once commented, "A profession is a group of people who demand higher standards of themselves than do their clients." No one has the level of specialized knowledge with which to make insightful judgments of performance quality that the professional insiders have. Only they can ensure true quality control. Hence they do the public, the resources, and their professions a service by self-evaluation.
For the above reasons, this book proceeds in the following sequence:
Chapter 2 reviews, but does not advocate among, the public values that have been attached to the System's natural resources through its history, and the goals and policies established to satisfy those values. President Teer's original charge was to evaluate policies relating to "lands and life" in the System. Although the assignment was from The Wildlife Society, and central concern has been with "wildlife" policies, we have come to use the term wildlife as synonymous with essentially the entire fauna. And since the fauna functions in, and is dependent upon, entire ecosystems for its survival, much of this book addresses entire ecological or natural resources.
Chapter 3 evaluates the condition of ecological or natural resources in the System to determine whether public values and goals are being met.
Chapters 4, 5, and 6 examine how well Park Service policies and practices are achieving ecological- or natural-resources goals.
Chapter 7 discusses the need for more explicit goals at the park level, procedures for goal setting, different management protocols that can be used to achieve goals, and alternative administrative structures by which science can best serve goal setting, policy formation, and management in the System.
In a very real sense, this study has spanned two to three decades, during which we all, to varying degrees and in various ways, have been involved with, studied, and in most cases written about policies and wildlife management in the National Park System. Several have served as actual consultants to the National Park Service. Much of what follows draws on that experience. As a formal committee effort, this study occupied approximately five years, as discussed earlier.
We began the study in the context of five objectives:
1. Articulate a set of possible wildlife purposes or goals of national parks. There was general agreement that the study should not be prescriptive, but rather that we consider a range of possible purposes among which we would not advocate.
2. Review existing wildlife-management policies in a sample of national parks, and assess how well the policies are serving alternative park purposes and goals. This was again intended as a nonadvocating analysis. Originally, we agreed to concentrate on a sample of ten units in the NPS system; but other units were studied outside the committee's tenure. For example, McCullough had previously served on a National Research Council study of bear management in Yellowstone, as consultant to NPS on Death Valley, and as a member of an advisory board for Glacier Bay; Pelton had conducted research on Great Smoky for a number of years prior to the committee's appointment.
Beyond these, a number of us have had experiences of varying duration and intensity with a broader range of parks: Foresta and Sax in the course of their policy studies, Porter with a number of eastern parks both doing research and serving as a consultant to NPS, Wagner supervising a five-year graduate study in Yellowstone.
Excerpted from Wildlife Policies in the U.S. National Parks by Frederic H. Wagner, Ronald Foresta, R. Bruce Gill, Dale R. McCullough, Michael R. Pelton, William F. Porter, Hal Salwasser. Copyright © 1995 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|1||Professional Review of a Great System||1|
|2||Natural-Resources Values, Goals, and Policies of the System||10|
|3||Wildlife "Problems" in the Parks||44|
|4||Constraints on Attainment of Natural-Resources Goals||69|
|5||Science Administration for and in the System||94|
|6||Ecological Terms and Concepts That Influence Policy Directions||112|
|About the Authors||229|