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Science and the National Parks
Analyze the scope and organization of current NPS natural and social science activities related to current and potential environmental issues, national park planning and resource management, and environmental information needs.
Evaluate current NPS systems for quality control, quality assurance, funding, and financial management of NPS natural science, social science, and technology programs.
Produce a report of the committee's findings and recommendations, including options for enhancing the quality, productivity, efficiency, and relevance to planning and management of NPS scientific research activities.
This report is about the role of science in park management and the ways by which the parks can contribute to the natural and social sciences. Information was gathered from formal sources (e.g., past published reviews of the NPS science program) and from extensive conversations with scientists, managers, and other experts both in the Park Service and elsewhere. The report discusses the value of research for managing and protecting the resources of the parks, the real costs of failing to conduct and use adequate research, the history of previous reviews of science in the NPS, and the lack of progress toward improving the use of science in support of the NPS mission. Because the national parks today contain some of the least disturbed ecosystems in our country, this report also argues that the parks are increasingly valuable as sites for scientific research on ecological problems that transcend the boundaries of the parks. In this role, the parks contribute to a basic understanding of ecosystem dynamics and natural processes and provide a valuable baseline for comparison with human-altered ecosystems.
This report argues that science should pervade the NPS's resource planning and management philosophy; without an adequate science base the NPS cannot solve today's problems or meet tomorrow's challenges. This will require substantial reorientation and commitment within the agency, for good science requires strong leadership and continuity of support.