Leopold – 05 Policies of Park Management

Wildlife Management in the National Parks:

The Leopold Report

 Policies of Park Management

 The major policy change which we would recommend to the National Park Service is that it recognize the enormous complexity of ecologic communities and the diversity of management procedures required to preserve them. The traditional, simple formula of protection may be exactly what is needed to maintain such climax associations as arctic-alpine heath, the rain forests of Olympic peninsula, or the Joshua trees and saguaros of southwestern deserts. On the other hand, grasslands, savannas, aspen, and other successional shrub and tree associations may call for very different treatment. Reluctance to undertake biotic management can never lead to a realistic presentation of primitive America, much of which supported successional communities that were maintained by fires, floods, hurricanes, and other natural forces.

A second statement of policy that we would reiterate — and this one conforms with present Park Service standards — is that management be limited to native plants and animals. Exotics have intruded into nearly all of the parks but they need not be encouraged, even those that have interest or ecologic values of their own. Restoration of antelope in Jackson Hole, for example, should be done by managing native forage plants, not by planting crested wheat grass or plots of irrigated alfalfa. Gambel quail in a desert wash should be observed in the shade of a mesquite, not a tamarisk. A visitor who climbs a volcano in Hawaii ought to see mamane trees and silver-swords, not goats.

Carrying this point further, observable artificiality in any form must be minimized and obscured in every possible way. Wildlife should not be displayed in fenced enclosures; this is the function of a zoo, not a national park. In the same category is artificial feeding of wildlife. Fed bears become bums, and dangerous, Fed elk deplete natural ranges. Forage relationships in wild animals should be natural. Management may at times call for the use of the tractor, chain-saw, rifle, or flamethrower but the signs and sounds of such activity should be hidden from visitors insofar as possible. In this regard, perhaps the most dangerous tool of all is the roadgrader. Although the American public demands automotive access to the parks, road systems must be rigidly prescribed as to extent and design. Roadless wilderness areas should be permanently zoned. The goal, we repeat, is to maintain or create the mood of wild America. We are speaking here of restoring wildlife to enhance this mood, but the whole effect can be lost if the parks are overdeveloped for motorized travel. If too many tourists crowd the roadways, then we should ration the tourists rather than expand the roadways.

Additionally in this connection, it seems incongruous that there should exist in the national parks mass recreation facilities such as golf courses, ski lifts, motorboat marinas, and other extraneous developments which completely contradict the management goal. We urge the National Park Service to reverse its policy of permitting these nonconforming uses, and to liquidate them as expeditiously as possible (painful as this will be to concessionaires). Above all other policies, the maintenance of naturalness should prevail.