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Science and advocacy in the resource management of the National Park Service

Science and advocacy in the resource management of the National Park Service

Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America 29(6): 353

The National Park Service (NPS) is charged with a mandate to conserve and protect the natural and historic resources within parks in a manner that leaves them "unimpaired" for the enjoyment of future generations. Since the creation of the NPS in 1916, the park management philosophy has developed and evolved, though not without controversy over the years. The management policy of park resource managers is summarized as "when in doubt, err on the side of protection of the resource". Implementing this policy, within the context of the modern ecology movement and ecosystem management, requires NPS managers to be scientifically informed as well as politically aware. While often seen as a issue relative to the biologic resources of parks, this is equally relevant to the geosciences. Resource management decisions require consideration of complex geoscience (e.g., geology, hydrology, geochemistry), engineering and mitigation techniques, and economics. Frequently, park managers are faced with extractive mineral development that threatens the integrity of park resources. NPS administrative activities, such as facility construction and road building, have the potential to be equally disruptive. Geosciences are a key component that must be integrated into resource management planning and decision making, with critical attention to risk management, generally within a highly public and often politically sensitive context. The challenge to scientists is to maintain quality, integrity, and credibility while providing useable information to decision makers addressing real world questions and solutions. This is made more difficult when the resource manager or decision makers is not a scientist. Scientists can't assume that the correct conclusion will be drawn from an objective presentation of facts. Thus, an interpretation of the information is required, including what we know and what we don't know. The issue then becomes when does "interpretation" cross over the line to "advocacy" and how does the scientist address this concern. The scientist must keep in mind who needs the information and when and where it will be applied, as well as always being aware of how the information is being used in day to day resource management and decision making. This talk will address specific examples facing the NPS, such as mineral development, facility construction, and historic preservation.

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Accession: 019956326

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