A new report by the National Park Service (NPS) Advisory Board Science Committee recommends new paradigms for the agency’s management of the nation’s natural and cultural resources, as well as a “major, systematic, and comprehensive review of its policies.”
One recommendation is to accept that ecosystems change. Past policies have tried to maintain the parks in the conditions that prevailed before the arrival of Europeans settlers. The committee urges natural resource managers and decision makers to “rely on science for guidance in understanding novel conditions, threats, and risks to parks now and in the future.”
The report also recommends that management needs to be across the natural and cultural landscape, not focused on individual parks as distinct units. Connectivity within the system is needed to build resilience.
The report came at the behest of NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, who charged the Science Committee with updating a 1963 report that has been influential in management of wildlife in national parks. The new report, which was released at the end of August, takes a broader view beyond wildlife by addressing management of all natural and cultural resources in the custody of NPS.
“The need for science—to understand how park ecosystems function, monitor impacts of change (even from afar), inform decisions makers and their decisions, and enrich the public appreciation of park values—has never been greater,” states the report. Therefore, the authors state, the NPS needs a “specific and explicit” policy for park stewardship and decision-making based on the “best available sound science, accurate fidelity to the law, and long-term public interest.” NPS will also need a policy to encourage adoption of new technologies and establish data sharing strategies.
The committee recommends several specific actions to expand the role of science at NPS. Those recommendations include hiring “a new and diverse cohort” of scientists that should be stationed in parks. Career advancement, including increased opportunities in professional societies and publication of research findings, should also be prioritized. The report recommends creating a standing Science Advisory Board to offer external perspectives on science in national parks. Increased monitoring of conditions in the parks is needed and could be accomplished partly through citizen science.
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