National Park Management - A study of US National Parks with particular emphasis on sustainable tourism

Diploma Thesis, 2001

104 Pages, Grade: Good


Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Formulation of the problem
1.2 Structure of this paper

2 History of the US National Parks

3 Criteria for Inclusion

4 Management Policies

5 Management Effectiveness of Protected Areas
5.1 Programming
5.2 Managing Information
5.3 Accountability
5.4 Requirements

6 Progresses of evaluating management effectiveness

7 Park System Planning
7.1 General Management Planning
7.2 Strategic Planning
7.3 Implementation Planning
7.4 Annual Performance Planning and Reporting

8 Internal and external threats
8.1 Impacts of global warming on National Parks
8.2 Challenges of the 21st century
8.2.1 Natural resource protection
8.2.2 Cultural resource stewardship
8.2.3 Education
8.2.4 Leadership
8.2.5 Outlook for National Parks

9 The Park Ranger System
9.1 Park Rangers Duties in the NPS
9.2 Location and Training in the NPS
9.3 Career Potential for Park Rangers in the NPS

10 Financial issues

11 International Trends in Park Tourism

12 Ecotourism
12.1 Styles of Ecotourism
12.1.1 Self reliant ecotourism
12.1.2 Small group ecotourism
12.1.3 Popular ecotourism
12.2 Complement of Ecotourism

13 Park Tourism Market

14 Mass tourism phenomenon
14.1 Definition of tourism
14.2 History of tourism
14.3 Mass tourism
14.4 Education
14.5 Facing mass tourism problems in US National Parks

15 Future tourists

16 Protected Areas Classification

17 Park Economics
17.1 Use Fees
17.2 Data collection and communication
17.3 Pricing Policy
17.4 Tourism Planning and Management Competencies
17.5 Visitation Statistics

18 Tourism Management Structures

19 Park Tourism Opportunities and Challenges

20 National Park Tourism Summary and Conclusions

21 Summary and Conclusions



Figures and Tables

Table 1: Basic indicators to evaluate effective protected area management

Table 2: Park Threats by Category

Table 3: Summary of the tourism epochs

Table 4: Growth in worldwide international tourist arrivals, 1950-2000

Table 5: Zehn Verhaltensregeln eines verantwortungsbewussten Touristen

Table 6: IUCN Categories and Definitions for Protected Areas

Table 7: Global Protected Areas Classified by IUCN Management Category

Table 8: Park Tourism Income Sources

Figure 1: Submarkets of Nature-based Tourism

Figure 2: The five main sectors of the tourism industry

1 Introduction

„In order to sustain our global environment and improve the quality of living in our human settlements, we commit ourselves to sustainable patterns of production, consumption, transportation and settlement development, pollution prevention, respect for the carrying capacity of eco-systems, and the preservation of opportunities for future generations“[1] (Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, June 1996).

National Parks in the United States and almost all over the world are being subjected to a paradigm shift in park conservation and management. In the early years of National Parks, conservation strategies and management actions were based on a belief that parks were static landscapes, isolated from human activities and adjacent lands, and that they were meant solely for the pleasure of visitors. Attempts to resolve system dysfunctions - wrought by erroneous views and the consequences of subsequent management policies, such as predator removal and fire suppression - were approached one species at a time. Today, this paradigm is slowly shifting to a knowledge-based understanding of ecosystems as dynamic and interconnected. Conservation strategies now recognize the need to include people as part of the system and to address causes, rather than symptoms, of system dysfunction by managing whole ecosystems, not just single species. However, National Park Management is not just limited to conservation strategies. National Park Management includes a widespread variety of management activities such as the most essential activities like park system planning, land protection, natural resource management (biological resource management, fire management, water resource management, air resource management, geologic resource management, soundscape and lightscape management), cultural resource management (e.g. archeological resources, cultural landscape, ethnographic resources, historic structures), wilderness preservation and management, interpretation and education, tourism/visitor management, and park facilities management. It is clear that in each park the emphasis of management activities should be adapted to the needs of the park, its problems and challenges. However, the next generation of park managers will need to be able to tolerate ambiguity, manage change, manage tourism patterns, set and communicate priorities, handle controversy, and understand political processes. Park Management has to comprise both biological management and increasing tourism and business management to face the challenges of the 21st century.

1.1 Formulation of the problem

National Parks have always been to the United States what castles and cathedrals are to Europe. Thus, they receive significant public support. Politicians have been aware of that support at least since the start of this century and have accordingly made official commitments to preservation efforts. These factors are necessary but not sufficient conditions to ensure systematic representation and restoration of park units. Additional factors for a successful management of National Parks are stated and described in the following chapters. This paper primarily shows the situation and circumstances of US National Parks, and emphasizes the sectors where Austrian park managers expect some benchmarks or possibilities for improvement, as discussed with the park managers in the investigation-phase of this paper. In the course of this paper, it will be occasionally referred to the situation in Austrian National Parks in order to show comparison, but the emphasis will be given to the description and representation of the US National Parks.

This paper, which mostly deals with business management and social science, and particularly the management development in National Parks with all its influences, was written in cooperation with almost all Austrian National Park agencies and with the company E.C.O., an ecological institute specialized in National Park management consultancy. It is understood these agencies are interested in the results of the paper and it will be placed at each agency’s disposal.

1.2 Structure of this paper

In this paper, I will focus on the management of park tourism. That is why for a significant part of Austrian park managers, tourism is the problem which presents the most difficulties. Park managers expect some suggestions and recommendations from not only the US, but also from international park tourism management. National Parks, and consequently park tourism management have a particular standing; on the one hand their mission is to preserve unique and important natural areas for future generations; on the other hand, it is to make the parks available for the enjoyment of visitors. These two missions sometimes seem to contradict each other. Possibilities to solve this problem are stated lengthily in this paper.

Other priorities in this paper are the general description of the aim and object of National Parks, the parks’ management policies and demands for management effectiveness, the general park system planning, the indication of internal and external threats like the impacts of global warming and concluding challenges of the 21st century, the park ranger system and the problem of financing and funding in National Parks. However, the main part is dedicated to international trends in park tourism. Thereby the following matters are examined more closely:

- Ecotourism/Sustainable tourism and its meaning for National Parks;
- Park tourism market;
- Mass tourism phenomenon;
- The future tourist;

Furthermore, the paper deals with park economics, pricing policy in parks, visitor statistics and its significance for National Parks, the tourism management structures and its organizational possibilities as well as an overall view of park tourism opportunities and challenges is given at the end of the tourism chapter.

2 History of the US National Parks

The world's first National Park (in the following abbreviated „NP“), Yellowstone, was founded in 1887 in the United States of America. Thus, the idea of a National Park was an American invention with historic consequences, marking the beginning of a world-wide movement that has subsequently spread to more than 100 countries and 1.200 National Parks and conservation preserves. Though several other National Parks in the US were also established before the end of the 19th century, it was not until 1916 that the federal government created a separate agency, the National Park Service (NPS), to administer the growing National Park system. Even then, it was an additional 17 years (1933) before the NPS actually assumed management of many of the country's National Parks from other federal agencies such as the National Forest Service and Department of Defense.[2] The number and diversity of parks within the NPS grew continuously and today there are more than 375 units in the US National Park System. These units are variously designated as National Parks, Monuments, Preserves, Lakeshores, Seashores, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Trails, Historic Sites, Military Parks, Battlefields, Historical Parks, Recreation Areas, Memorials, and Parkways. The best-known and most important units both worldwide and within the US are the National Parks. At the moment there are 53 listed US National Parks, 51 of which are classified as Category II (see also chapter 16 Protected Areas Classification), such as famous parks like the Yellowstone NP (Wyoming), Yosemite NP (California), Zion NP (Utah), Grand Canyon NP (Arizona), Bryce Canyon NP (Utah), Everglades NP (Florida), Arches NP (Utah), Denali NP (Alaska), or Mesa Verde NP (Colorado). Over 10 % of the United States is protected in National Parks and related areas. This information is somewhat misleading, because of the extensiveness of the protected estate in Alaska.[3]

3 Criteria for Inclusion

To be included in the United States National Park system, a proposed site must

- possess nationally significant natural or cultural resources
- be a suitable addition to the system
- be a feasible addition to the system (see below for more details), and
- require direct NPS management, instead of alternative protection by other public agencies or by the private sector.[4]

National significance is usually evaluated by NPS professionals in consultation with subject matter experts. An area is considered suitable for addition to the NPS if it represents the above stated criteria and also if it is not comparably represented and protected for public enjoyment by other federal agencies, state, or local governments, or the private sector. This is the official version of how a park gets added to the NPS. The truth however is, that politicians sometimes satisfy the demand for new parks arbitrarily, especially within their constituencies. Thus it is no wonder that many sites, predestined as National Parks or other units within the NPS (National Monument, National Historic Site, National Preserve, etc.) have to wait much longer for inclusion than other sites with less appropriate preconditions, but more powerful political impact. Illustrative examples for this mechanism of political impact are the Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, Pennsylvania) and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (eastern Kansas). The former was created by a political maneuver; an amendment to an appropriations bill by a high-ranking representative from Pennsylvania, which had little to do with historical preservation and was neither recommended nor desired by the NPS. The latter received congressional approval only after decades of seemingly futile efforts even though the tallgrass prairie is a major ecosystem that the NPS has been trying to include in the system for decades. These are two extreme examples, but they show very well the real mechanism of unit inclusion into the NPS in the past. A further criteria for inclusion or non-inclusion, additionally to the official criteria of the NPS, was whether the destined area was land with valuable material resources or not. For example, Redwood National Park was established only after decades of political struggle because proposals to create a National Park to preserve the remaining giant redwood tress on the California coast were met with opposition from the mighty timber industry.[5]

The logical result of arbitrary park creation was an unprecedented expansion of US National Parks with the continual inclusion of always new units. Critics of this kind of inclusion found out that „land administered by the four largest Federal land management agencies failed to include 22% of the recognized ecosystem types in the United States and under-represented another 29%. And fifty-four of 133 ecoregions in the US have little or no representation in the National Park System. Some of these regions are so small that representation is impractical, and others have largely been lost, having been converted to other uses or otherwise degraded.“[6] Notwithstanding these exceptions, a significant number of ecoregions lack adequate representation in protected area systems. Realizing that the NPS was losing its focus on management of existing units, it finally succeeded in stopping the expansion by stabilizing additional resources.

Back to the theory, a feasible new unit of the NPS, must first be of sufficient size and appropriate configuration to ensure sustainable resource protection and visitor enjoyment, and second be capable of efficient administration by the NPS at a reasonable cost. In evaluating feasibility, the Service considers a variety of factors, such as

- size
- boundary configurations
- current and potential uses of the study area and surrounding lands
- land ownership patterns
- public enjoyment potential
- costs associated with acquisition, development, restoration and operation
- access
- current and potential threats to the resources
- existing degradation of resources
- staffing requirements
- local planning and zoning for the study area
- the level of local and general public support, and
- the economic/socioeconomic impacts of designation as a unit of the NPS.[7]

All factors applied to a possible new unit does not mean automatically that it will be added to the NPS. Evaluations may sometimes identify concerns or conditions, rather than simply reach a "Yes" or "No" conclusion. For example, some new areas may be feasible additions to the NPS only if landowners are willing to sell, or only if the boundaries cover specific areas necessary for visitor access. A further condition should be, that the state or local governments will provide appropriate guarantee that neighboring land use will remain compatible with the study area's resources and values. These are factors affecting Austrian NP’s, and probably all NP’s in the world as well.

During recent years, a precondition for an NPS unit has been to be subordinated to the NPS management. In cases where a study area's resources meet criteria for national significance but do not meet other criteria, the Service may instead recommend an alternative status such as "affiliated area" or "heritage area". Both of these alternatives recognize an area's importance to the nation without requiring or implying management by the NPS.

4 Management Policies

The National Park Service is a bureau within the Department of the Interior. The NPS is charged with the dual and sometimes contrary roles of protection and promotion of enjoyment of the finest natural areas of the nation.[8] The goals are to preserve the unimpaired natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of the current and future generations. They also cooperate with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout the country and the world.

The property clause of the US Constitution, which is the supreme law of the United States, gives Congress the authority to develop laws governing the management of the National Park system. The NPS, as a federal agency, has to develop a policy to interpret the ambiguities of the law and to fill in the details left unaddressed by Congress. US National Park system and NPS programs management is guided by the Constitution, public laws, treaties, proclamations, executive orders, regulations, and directives of the Secretary of the Interior and the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. NPS policy must be consistent with these higher authorities. Many of the statutes and other guidance affecting the various facets of the NPS administration and management are cited for reference purpose throughout Management Policies. Thus, the NPS policy sets the framework and provides direction for all management decisions. This policy is usually developed through a collaborative work group involving extensive field review, consultation with NPS senior managers, and review and comment by affected parties and the general public. In some cases, initiatives do not originate within the Service, but rather with persons or organizations outside the Service, such as the logging or agriculture industries for example, which have a strong interest in how the Service manages the parks.

Service-wide policy is articulated by the Director of the National Park Service. Adherence to the policy is mandatory, waivers or modifications are only possible by way of exception and in certain cases. The several park superintendents are held accountable for their staff's adherence to Service-wide policy as well as their own. In summary, the NPS Management Policy is the basic Service-wide policy document of the US National Park Service. It is the highest of three levels of guidance documents in the NPS Directives System. The second level is Director's Orders, which also serve as a vehicle to clarify or supplement Management Policies to meet the needs of NPS managers. Interim updates or improvement concerning new laws and technologies, new understandings of park resources, or changes in society could be included in such an order. The most detailed and comprehensive guides on implementing Service-wide policy are the third level handbooks or reference manuals issued by associate directors. Additionally, superintendents may issue, within formal delegations of authority, park-specific instructions, procedures, directives, and other supplementary guidance (such as hours of operation or dates for seasonal openings), provided the guidance does not conflict with Service-wide policy.[9]

As stated, the American National Parks are subjected to a relatively strict, structured, and directed Management Policy. Nevertheless the agencies are supposed to have some „breathing space“ to run the several parks, but on the other hand, some rules can be avoided by park specific instructions. However, the key of every structure and strategy is not how detailed it is presented and articulated, but how it is implemented. Implementation is the process which makes it possible to transform plans and strategies into practicable, feasible assignments guaranteeing the successful meeting of the aims.[10] Thus, a professional strategy is unrenounceable, but the implementation is the most essential part of it.

5 Management Effectiveness of Protected Areas

Effective Management is a necessary condition for all protected areas that are legally designated to meet biodiversity conservation and other natural heritage protection goals and objectives. For such sites including National Parks there are requirements for two types of reports:

- Reactive reports that are initiated when a threat to National Park values is identified, and
- Systematic or periodic reports that routinely assess and report on aspects of management of National Park properties.

Currently, most reporting has been in relation to reactive monitoring of properties under threat. But there is a further need to improve the nature and extent of periodic reporting in National Parks.[11]

In general, three broad uses of information on management effectiveness can be outlined as:

1. Programming (problems identification and priority setting);
2. Adaptive management (use of performance information to improve management); and
3. Accountability (reporting on activities and performance).

5.1 Programming

This part can be seen as the general problem solving process, which each organization has to go through more or less often. This process includes:

- the realization/identification of problems (This is the most difficult part of the process because, frequently, the symptoms are mixed up with the problems. Mixed or diffuse information can lead to completely different results. The result of the whole process heavily depends on the interpretation of the starting situation.)
- the definition of problems (Problem definition serves as basis for thinking about the situation and for communicating the problem to others.)
- the finding of alternatives
- the valuation and supervision of single alternatives.[12]

This problem solving process is just a framework of how problems could be solved, varies in its intensity and details and is logically not restricted only to National Parks but it also affects any other organization.

5.2 Managing Information

The future of the NPS and any other National Park agency in the world as accountable organizations, and thus the future of individual parks, depends greatly on

- the availability, management, and dissemination of comprehensive information, and
- the Service's success in long-term preservation and management of, and access to that information.

The information resources for all the National Parks exist in a variety of different media, including paper records, electronic documents, maps, databases, photography, video and audio. For an effective management of this information, it is necessary to implement professional quality programs to preserve, manage, and integrate these resources, and to make them accessible. Since National Parks are "public domain" all information about the parks is presumed to be accessible and available to anyone interested. The NPS is even committed to the widest possible sharing and availability of knowledge, and to fostering discussion about the National Park System and the national experiences and values they represent. The only exceptions to information sharing are where disclosure could jeopardize specific park resources or donor agreements, or violate legal or confidentiality requirements.[13] Information is also a precondition and serves the scope of education, which is explained in more detail in chapter 8.2.3 Education.

5.3 Accountability

Management accountability is the expectation that managers are responsible for the quality and appropriateness of program performance, increasing productivity, controlling costs, mitigating the poor aspects of agency operations, and for assuring that programs are managed with integrity and in compliance with applicable law. The managers of the US National Parks are committed to take systematic and proactive measures to:

- develop and implement appropriate, cost-effective management controls for results-oriented management,
- assess the adequacy of management controls in federal programs and operations,
- identify needed improvements,
- take corresponding corrective action, and
- report annually on management controls.

On the other hand, the NPS as a higher department has implemented systems of controls to ensure that the programs achieve their intended results, that the resources are used consistent with the NPS mission, and that the programs and resources are protected from fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement. Additionally, the NPS ensures that laws and regulations are followed by all park agencies, and that reliable and timely information is obtained, maintained, reported, and used for decision-making.

As the business system for the NPS, performance management has to set goals and track accomplishments. For this scope, Service-wide strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports are prepared, distributed, used, and analyzed for management accountability.[14] A detailed information about this is given in chapter 7 Park System Planning.

5.4 Requirements

However, this is not a sufficient basis for a comprehensive assessment of management activities. To improve conservation and management effectiveness of protected areas several principles must be considered:

- Assessment or evaluation systems should aim to be participatory at all stages of the process and should seek to involve all relevant organizations and individuals that may have an interest in the management and use of a site.
- Assessment should be based upon a well founded, transparent and comprehensive system of evaluation. The results should be easily accessible to all interested parties.
- The management objectives and the criteria for assessing performance of management must be clearly defined and understood by the managers and assessors.
- Assessments of management effectiveness should focus on the most important issues - including threats and opportunities - affecting or potentially affecting the achievement of management objectives and the maintenance of conservation values.
- Consideration of inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes, as well as the design of the protected area itself, can all contribute to an assessment system.
- Indicators should find critical aspects relating to social, environmental and management issues, including the relationship between the protected area and its surroundings.
- Critical gaps in information and limitations of the evaluation should be clearly identified in an assessment report.
- The system should be capable of showing change over time through periodic assessments.
- Reports of the results of the assessment should identify areas where management has been performing well in addition to areas where management needs improvement. Issues should be divided between those that are within and outside a manager's control.
- Assessment should allow prioritization of conservation effort.
- Clear recommendations for management improvement should be included in all assessments.
- The methodology for evaluation and performance indicators should be progressively verified and/or refined as necessary.
- Assessments should be based on reliable and appropriate environmental and social science. Assessment is likely to include both quantitative and qualitative information that should be supported by measurement or other evidence.
- Quality control systems can assist assessment systems to achieve high standards and to gain acceptance and credibility in the wider community.
For such an widespread adoption of a management effectiveness evaluation system, several requirements should be met:
- Awareness of the need for evaluation of management performance for protected areas.
- Political will to promote and support evaluation among agencies, government and givers.
- Reliable conceptual framework and practical, cost-effective methodologies for evaluation.
- Training and extension in evaluation systems/methods.
- Mechanism for consolidating, synthesizing and reporting on global information at ecosystem, IUCN category and site-specific levels.[15]

Ideally, all systems should include an analysis of outcomes. In general, systems should either include outcomes or recommend a strategy to collect data to measure outcomes in the future. Outcomes do not only measure management impacts but also other factors (visitor impact, pollution, natural factors, legislative factors, funding, etc.) influencing the condition of the protected area. The assessment system should be attempting to link outcomes with management actions and with other influencing factors.

This framework has not been tested yet and it is therefore not predictable if it is actually compatible in reality. This means that there is no implementation strategy, also due to the different circumstances in the several National Parks. However, the main work of such guidelines is their actual implementation. The best strategy is worthless if not transferred into reality. Accordingly, the most essential aim of this project must be to demonstrate to site managers the benefits and application of monitoring and evaluation.

6 Progress of evaluating management effectiveness

Although little progress has been made in the procedures designed to evaluate management effectiveness, what progress has been made is notable and requires more case studies to validate the tools developed and the principles upon which they are based. The procedures and principles above logically cannot be applied to every National Park, according to the different countries’ interests and needs, but they supply valuable information that can be used to guide global efforts and make it possible to compare progress in effective management in protected areas around the world.

A methodological procedure for national park management effectiveness evaluation can be as follow:

1. Identify areas to be evaluated
2. Select neutral agent or facilitator and form a core group (assisted by specialists who know the methodology, park staff and community representatives)
3. Collect primary and secondary information (Make charts; review bibliography; field visits; interviews)
4. Select variables, sub-variables and determine their place within the fields (Workshop with core group and community representatives)
5. Establish evaluation criteria, structure of conditions and development of scenarios (Workshop with core group and community representatives)
6. Identify and rate current situation
7. Integrate results and interpretation in terms of Management Effectiveness

Indicators to evaluate effective protected area management are given in several fields of a National Park. As an example there is listed below the administrative field with its variables and sub-variables:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: Basic indicators to evaluate effective protected area management[16]

This administrative field with its variables and sub-variables and all other fields concerning a National Park, such as policies, planning, information, management programs, legal and illegal uses, biogeographical characteristics or threats, can be evaluated as suggested in points 1 to 7 above. Consequently, it should be possible for the national park management to see how effective their work is, which points need improvement and to this way ensure the area's viability.

7 Park System Planning

Park planning helps define which types of resource conditions, visitor experiences, and management actions will be best to achieve the mandate to preserve unimpaired resources for the enjoyment of future generations. The NPS has designated for this scope a general management planning, which each of America's National Parks has to develop periodically, and also the more specific strategic planning, implementation planning, and annual performance planning and reporting. All these elements will be interrelated in a single framework for planning and decision-making. Within this framework, actions will relate directly to goals, and goals will relate directly to the mission of the park. The park's mission includes each park's purpose and significance, based on the park's enabling legislation or Presidential proclamation, and any laws and Executive orders that are relevant to the National Park System or to the individual park unit. The goals of each park articulate the ideals that the NPS hopes to achieve in each parks. The park goals are derived from the overall goals for the NPS (see also chapter 4 Management Policy). Annual goals and work plans will relate to long-term (five-year) goals, while long-term goals will relate to the park's mission, management prescriptions, and the broadest decisions about what the Service ultimately hopes to achieve.

7.1 General Management Planning

As stated above, each National Park has to develop a General Management Plan (GMP). The purpose of each GMP is to ensure that the park has a clearly defined direction for resource preservation and visitor use. This should be the basic foundation for decision-making. Each GMP is developed by an interdisciplinary team, including park managers and technical experts, in consultation with relevant offices within the NPS, other federal and state agencies, other interested parties, and the general public. General management planning will constitute the first phase of rowed planning and decision-making. It will focus on why the park was established, and what management prescriptions (i.e. resource conditions, visitor experiences, visitor carrying capacities, potential modifications to the external boundaries of the park) should be achieved and maintained over time. The GMP focuses on the overall view. It considers the park in its full ecological, scenic, and cultural context as part of a surrounding region. The GMP will also establish a common management direction for all park divisions and districts. This integration will help avoid unintentionally creating new problems in one area while attempting to solve problems in another.

Accordingly, the GMP of Zion National Park as an example, a park situated in Southern Utah with an annual visitation of about 2.5 million visitors and a budget of $ 4.847.000,- for the financial year 2000[17] describes and analyses a preferred alternative and three other alternatives for the management and uses of Zion National Park. The plan is intended to provide a foundation to help park managers guide park programs and set priorities. The alternative that is finally chosen as the plan will guide the management of Zion National Park over the next 20 years.

The „ no-action “, or status quo alternative provides a baseline for comparing the other three alternatives. Under this alternative, park managers would not undertake any new construction projects or make any major changes in managing visitor use as an example for a management field. Three action alternatives would create zones within the park to protect resources and provide opportunities for a range of visitor experiences. All three action alternatives limit park visitation in some backcountry areas, although many of these areas are inaccessible anyway due to their steep topography. In addition, all of the action alternatives call for adjustments to the park boundaries. The preferred alternative would emphasize proactive management to address impacts caused by increased visitor use. Under this alternative, a range of quality visitor experiences would continue to be provided but visitor numbers may be limited or reduced in parts of the recommended wilderness. A few new visitor facilities would be built in frontcountry areas. Alternative A would provide greater opportunities for increased use of Zion. Access would be improved inside the park by upgrading or building trails and designating new routes. Additional picnic areas, interpretive facilities, and backcountry campsites also would be provided. Alternative B emphasizes the additional protection of park resources while still providing opportunities for a range of visitor experiences. Under alternative B, the number and frequency of shuttles (the free shuttle system was established in 1997 when the visitation was 2.4 million and increasing to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquillity to the Zion Canyon[18] ) going form the visitor center to the eight locations in the park, would be reduced.

This GMP also discusses the potential consequences of each alternative’s action on natural resources, visitor use and experiences, and the socioeconomic environment. In general, the three action alternatives would better protect the park’s natural resources than the no-action alternative. Alternative A would provide for greater visitor use than today, but would also have the most negative impacts on natural resources. Alternative B would provide the greater protection of natural resources, but would have the most negative impacts on visitor use. The preferred alternative would best protect the park’s natural resources while also maintaining a range of high-quality visitor experiences.[19] For a better understanding how a National Park organization is structured, the organizational structure of the Zion National Park is attached in the appendix of this paper.

Another important detail treated in the general GMP is Management Zoning. Since most parks have different extended sensitive natural areas, in each park these areas must be defined and protected properly. For this purpose, latest techniques such as digital satellite maps and digital aerial photographs are used, as in most Austrian National Parks as well. In addition, after the executed zoning, the several different prescriptions for resource condition, visitor experience, and appropriate management activities can be adapted for the park. For example, highly sensitive natural areas might tolerate little, if any, visitor use, while other areas may accommodate a much higher level of use.

Involving the public in the GMP is seen as an essential measure. Members of the public - including existing and potential visitors, park neighbors, park inhabitants, concessionaires, cooperating associations, scientists, scholars, and government agencies - must be encouraged to participate during the preparation of a GMP. This public involvement will help in the more effective development of the range of alternatives considered in planning, in the evaluation of the analysis of potential impacts, and in making known the underlying principle in decisions about the park's future. Public involvement should also be used to share information about legal and policy orders, the planning process, issues, and proposed management directions. Furthermore, public involvement facilitates the learning about the values placed by other people and groups on the same resources and finally builds support for implementing the plan among local interests, visitors, Congress, and others at the regional and national level.

As necessary, General Management Plans will be reviewed and improved or revised, or a new plan will be prepared. GMP reviews are considered to be necessary every 10 to 15 years, or sooner if conditions change more rapidly. In sum, through the GMP park managers are responsible for an accurate assessment of whether resources in their parks are threatened, the visitor experience has been degraded, or the park's built environment is difficult to sustain.

7.2 Strategic Planning

The strategic plan, conducted by each National Park for the National Park Service, is consistent with the General Management Plan, building on the GMP mission, mission goals, and management prescriptions. Although it shares some elements in common with a GMP, a park's strategic plan will not be a substitute for a GMP. A strategic plan is focused on a shorter time frame than a GMP, targets more measurable results, and does not require the comprehensive resource analysis, consultation, and compliance required for a GMP. Through strategic planning, park staffs should be able to continuously re-evaluate the adequacy of the park's GMP as a foundation for addressing issues, and they even may identify the need for a new or revised GMP. Strategic plans may also identify the need for more detailed implementation plans.

Thus, the strategic plan should also help to achieve better results in the park's mission of preserving resources and providing for visitor enjoyment. Strategic plans should find ways to manage general performance and to thereby achieve each park agency's ability to identify their long-term goals, establish their annual performance targets, follow their progress and report their activities toward meeting the NPS-wide, and the park's long-term goals.

To fulfill the purpose for implementing general performance management, strategic plans will contain the following elements:

- Mission statement and goals (same elements like in the GMP);
- Long-term goals;
- A description of the strategies chosen to achieve the goals;
- A description of how the annual goals will relate to the long-term goals (if it is not obvious);
- An identification of the key external factors that could affect achievement of the goals;
- A description of the program/operation evaluations used in establishing or revising goals, with a schedule for future evaluations;
- A section listing the consultations with stakeholders and others; and
- A list of those who developed the plan.[20]

The strategic plan should be a basis for the park managers who have to consider how the park mission and long-term goals might be pursued in the foreseeable future. The answer to that question will determine the park's workload, budget, and staffing allocations for the following two to five years.

7.3 Implementation Planning

Implementation planning focuses on how to implement activities and projects needed to achieve the management prescriptions identified in the GMP and in the complementary long-term goals in the park strategic plan. Developing plans of action in order to deal with complex, technical, and sometimes controversial issues often requires a level of detail and comprehensive analysis beyond that of the GMP or strategic plan levels. Implementation planning is conducted to provide this level of detail and analysis. Two elements of implementation plans are used which may be combined or addressed separately:

- Implementation programs should identify the scope, sequence, and cost estimates of projects needed to achieve park management prescriptions and long-term goals. They should provide a systemized course of action that can serve as a bridge between the broad direction provided in the GMP and decisions to be taken in the near future provided in performance management. Implementation programs may include special emphasis plans, such as a park resource management plan, comprehensive interpretive plan, cultural landscape plan, land protection plan, visitor use plan, or wilderness management plan.
- Implementation details are determined to concentrate on individual projects, and specify techniques, disciplines, equipment, infrastructure, schedule, and funding necessary to achieve outcomes targeted in the strategic plan. They may vary widely, and may direct a unique project (such as reintroducing an extirpated species or developing a trail) or a continuous activity (such as maintaining a historic structure or managing fire within a natural system). Examples of implementation details include management plans for specific species, site designs, off-road-vehicle management plans, and interpretive media plans. Implementation details will generally be postponed until the activity or project under consideration has attained sufficient priority to indicate that action will be taken within the next two to five years, and will then be included in an annual work plan. This will help ensure that decisions about how to best achieve a certain goal are relevant, timely, and based on current data.

The implementation plans are usually developed by special teams under the direction of the park’s program leader, and after the park superintendent has approved the plans. To ensure the integration of individual projects with other park programs and initiatives, they are approved for implementation only in the performance management process. All actions or commitments aimed at changing resource conditions or visitor use in the park, and major new development or treatment, must be consistent with the approved GMP and be linked to long-term goals in the current strategic plan.


[1] Leitmann [Options for Managing Protected Areas 1998], p 129

[2] Robinson et. al. [How to Value Commercial Improvements in a National Park 2001] p 17

[3] McNeely/Harrison [Protecting Nature 1994], p 287

[4] National Park Service [Management Policies 2001] p 7

[5] Lowry [Preserving public lands for the future 1998], p 59

[6] McNeely/Harrison [Protecting Nature 1994], p 288

[7] National Park Service [Management Policies 2001] p 11

[8] McNeely/Harrison [Protecting Nature 1994], p 290

[9] National Park Service [Management Policies 2001] p 6f.

[10] Meffert [Marketing 1998] p 1014

[11] World Commission on Protected Areas [Management Effectiveness 1999], p 2

[12] Staehle [Management 1991] p 270

[13] National Park Service [Management Policies 2001] p 14

[14] National Park Service [Management Policies 2001] p 15

[15] World Commission on Protected Areas [Management Effectiveness 1999], p 6

[16] Arias/Valery [Evaluation of Protected Area Management 1999], p 16f.

[17] National Park Service [Zion National Park]

[18] Laine [National Parks of the American West 2000], p 634f.

[19] National Park Service [General Management Plan of Zion National Park], p 3

[20] National Park Service [Management Policies 2001], p 21

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National Park Management - A study of US National Parks with particular emphasis on sustainable tourism
Klagenfurt University  (OPM (Organisations-, Personal- und Managemententwicklung))
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ISBN (eBook)
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672 KB
National Park Management, Sustainable Tourism, Management Policies, Management Effectiveness, Park System Planning, Internal and External Threats, Park Ranger, Park Tourism, Ecotourism
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Roland Oberdorfer (Author), 2001, National Park Management - A study of US National Parks with particular emphasis on sustainable tourism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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