52 E. Resource Management: 1970s-1980s

Crater Lake National Park: Administrative History by Harlan D. Unrau and Stephen Mark, 1987


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CHAPTER TWELVE: Resource Management In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present


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Resource management concerns continued to be the focus of considerable attention by Crater Lake National Park personnel during the 1970s and 1980s. In June 1970 the Service adopted three objectives that would govern the parameters for resource management concerns for the decade. These were:

a. The primary natural resources of the park will be managed to insure the perpetuation of the factors basic to the park’s establishment

b. Encourage and administer a viable and purposeful research program

c. Road systems and park developments will be brought into balance with demonstrated visitor use patterns with regard to the influence on existing ecosystems [51]

One of the primary issues that continued to face park officials in the early 1970s was wildlife management, particularly as it pertained to black bear. Thus in November 1974 Superintendent Sims approved a bear management plan that was in line with the NPS Advisory Board on Wildlife Management’s recommendation “that the biotic associations within each park be maintained or, where necessary, recreated as nearly as possible in the condition that prevailed when the area was first visited by white man.”

The approved plan reflected the extension of policies and procedures that had been in place at the park for several years as park managers, in an attempt to revert the black. bear back to its natural food source and to avoid human injury and property damage incidents, had eliminated all dumping within the park, installed bear-proof garbage cans, and initiated a bear research program. It was noted that when Crater Lake was compared with other large national parks the number of bear incidents was not as numerous nor the incidents as serious. Reported personal injuries inflicted by black bears over the previous ten years had averaged one in every two years. Black bears that had been destroyed were few in number and were primarily those who inflicted injuries to humans. It was estimated that the existing bear population in the park was about the same as it had been in 1902, ranging between 75 and 100 animals.

The management objectives of the 1974 bear management plan were three-fold. They read:

1. Preserving and maintaining black. bear populations under natural conditions in their natural habitat

2. Providing for visitor and employee safety and elimination of property damage due to bear incidents

3. Providing opportunities for visitor appreciation and enjoyment by having visitors observe free roaming bears in their natural environment

To provide for effective implementation of the plan a management program was outlined. The program included “action steps” for public relations and visitor appreciation; reporting and claw enforcement procedures, bear-proofing garbage cans, and research on bear ecology, habitat, and behavior. Problem bears would be removed if found to be exhibiting the following behavioral characteristics:

1. Bears threatening people without provocation

2. Bears exhibiting their loss of fear of people by repeatedly entering heavy visitor use areas including campgrounds and residential areas

3. Bears regularly causing major property damage such as breaking windows in cars and trailers or causing considerable property damage when breaking into closed structures

Problem bears would be dispatched only as a last resort. [52]

An updated and revised “Bear Management Plan” for the park was approved by Superintendent Rouse in January 1980. The plan, which provided more detail regarding policy and procedure implementation than the 1974 plan, contained most of the salient points of the earlier document. The 1980 plan was prefaced by a summary account of visitor-bear problems in the park:

Human-bear conflict resulting in property damage has increased over the past few years. No injuries have been recorded, however, several close calls were reported. The conflicts between bears and humans are due to the present and past availability of human supplied food sources for the bears. Food-reward association with humans has resulted in the loss of fear of man and a more sophisticated population of bears is again beginning to develop at Crater Lake. The availability of unnatural food sources is altering the bears natural, wild behavior and foraging habits.

The plan established three management objectives in accordance with NPS policies:

(1) To restore and maintain the natural integrity, distribution, abundance, and behavior of the endemic black bear populations

(2) To provide for the safety of Park visitors by planning the development and use of the Park so as to prevent conflicts and unpleasant or dangerous incidents with bears

(3) To provide opportunities for visitors to understand, observe, and appreciate the black bear in its natural habitat with a minimum of interference by humans

Accordingly the plan implemented a program consisting of five basic elements to prevent the causes of man-bear conflicts: (1) public and employee information and education; (2) removal of artificial food sources; (3) enforcement of regulations regarding feeding of wild animals and proper food storage; (4) control of problem bears; and (5) continuation of a research program on the black bear population dynamics and ecology and monitoring of bear-human relationships. [53]

To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the park’s fire prevention and control program a new ”Fire Management Plan” was approved in August 1977. The purpose of the plan was to provide overall program direction and establish approved procedures for the management of natural, wildland, and prescribed fires within the park. According to the plan, a primary objective of the National Park Service in managing natural areas was the maintenance of ecosystems in as nearly a pristine condition as possible. The primary emphasis was on the preservation of processes, such as plant succession, rather than preservation of single features or species. Thus, an important objective was “the management of fire to simulate pre-settlement influences on natural processes.” Since cultural resources and physical facilities needed protection, however, an important objective was the suppression or control of fires which might pose a threat to such resources. Fires that threatened to cause damage outside park boundaries were also to be controlled. To conform with these NPS policies the plan established three specific objectives for fire management at Crater Lake National Park:

1. Any fire which threatens cultural resources or physical facilities will be suppressed, as well as fires which may endanger resources adjacent to the park.

2. Fire will be reintroduced in those vegetation zones in which fire has significant primeval influences on natural succession. This may involve natural and/or prescribed fires. In some areas, heavy fuel accumulations will be reduced by prescribed fires before natural fires are allowed to burn. Two principal components of this objective are the restoration of primeval forest composition and reduction in probability of unnaturally intense or catastrophic wild fires caused by unnaturally high fuel accumulation.

3. Research on the role of fire in various Crater Lake ecosystems will be continued. This will include monitoring of ecological effects of prescribed and natural fires, as well as acquisition of information on fuel accumulations, forest insects and diseases, vegetation dynamics and other topics important to fire management and planning. [54]

Other resource management action plans were developed during the 1970s and 1980s by the Crater Lake staff to deal with specific problems. An example was the “Hazard Tree Management Plan” approved by Superintendent Rouse in July 1982. Many facilities in the park were located in heavily forested areas, surrounded by trees 50 to 150 feet in height. Periodically, trees, or parts of trees, fell and damaged park facilities, and the potential existed for loss of property or injury to park visitors or employees. Thus, the goals of the plan were to: (1) minimize the hazards to park visitors, employees, and facilities; (2) develop and use dependable, well-defined standards for hazard tree identification and evaluation; and (3) maintain the integrity of the park forests to the fullest extent possible. [55] Other examples of resource management action plans include a “Hydroseed Revegetation Plan” in 1985 to restore areas scarred by early park road construction, and a “Peregrine Falcon Action Plan” adopted in 1986 to ensure the retention of a reproductive population of such birds in the park. The former was based on revegetation plans to repair Annie Creek Trail and plant seedlings on the Annie Spring cut-off road cut. The latter plan was developed in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group. A “Boat Operation Plan” was approved in May 1980 to provide for maximum human safety and to ensure the environmental integrity of the lake. [56]

By the early 1980s four cooperative agreements had been negotiated between the park and other government agencies for various phases of park resource management. One cooperative agreement was with the U.S. Forest Service for fire suppression and other resource management activities of mutual concern, including hazard tree reduction, cattle trespass across park boundaries, helicopter rental, and equipment loading. Another was with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for research and monitoring of deer and elk. herds, including migration patterns, population trends, and range conditions and management of the reproductive success of the only known nesting peregrine falcons in Oregon. An agreement with the Oregon Department of Forestry provided for the management of prescribed fire smoke. A fourth agreement was with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality which provided for the monitoring of air quality in compliance with the standards of the Clean Air Act, as amended in 1977. [57]

During the mid-1970s Crater Lake park managers turned their attention toward the development of a resource management plan for the biological and natural features of the park. The plan was to be in compliance with both NPS management objectives and policies and the park’s “Statement for Management.” The objectives for resource management as adopted by the Park. Service in July 1975 provided that the “perpetuation of the full diversity of a natural environment of ecosystem . . . is and must remain a distinguishing aspect of the Service’s management of natural lands. Policy and management emphasis must be toward perpetuation of these natural processes, assuring that impacts are not irreparable.” Accordingly, the Park Service would continue “to perfect its expertise in ecosystem management, including programs relating to wildfire and prescribed burning techniques, wildlife ecology, necessary regulation and control of resource use and pollution control and abatement.” Critical resources were to be monitored for change and management of other practices having adverse effects on natural processes was to be modified.

The park’s “Statement for Management” developed in 1975-76 stated that it was the objective of the park “to conserve the Park’s ecological resources free from adverse influence of man while allowing those types of use and development that do not significantly impair park resources. ” For the purposes of natural resource management five land classification zones or ecosystems were recognized in the park: Crater Lake; ponderosa pine forest; lodgepole pine forest; mountain hemlock forest; and pumice desert.

With these objectives as a basis for planning the Crater Lake park staff developed a draft resource management plan in January 1977. Proposed management programs were outlined in the draft plan detailing characteristics of park resources and defining management strategies to achieve park objectives. [58]

To insure that resource management was fully integrated into the park administrative structure the position of Resources Management Specialist was established during the early 1980s. This event was significant in that it represented a change in the attitude of the National Park Service and the park toward a more professional approach with specially trained personnel in the field for local management of park resources.

After further study and refinement a Resource Management Plan for the park was approved in 1982 by Regional Director Daniel J. Tobin. The plan, which was to be revised and updated annually, consisted of two components–a “Natural Resources Management Plan” and a “Cultural Resources Management Plan.” The two plans documented resource management needs and priorities through a series of project statements which included proposed actions and specific management guidelines for implementation and essential research studies. The plans served park management as manuals for activities that would preserve resources in the park based on approved management objectives, congressional mandates, and NPS policies. The “Natural Resources Management Plan” had four principal objectives:

1. Resource Protection

a) Maintain or restore the natural systems within the park to those conditions that would now exist were it not for the influence of man since the 1853 Hillman party “discovery of Carter Lake.”

b) Preserve the caldera ecosystem as the principal resource of the Park.

c) Maintain ecological integrity of native plants and animals as part of the park ecosystem. Permit animal populations to be regulated by natural processes whenever possible. Encourage the reintroduction of native species and prevent non-native species from displacing indigenous ones.

d) Identify and locate plant and animal species unique to the park or having very limited distribution and control the use or access to habitats of threatened and endangered species.

e) Implement management fires (natural and prescribed) in designated areas based on research and guidelines provided in the approved Crater Lake National Park. Fire Management Plan.

f) Manage those units of the park recommended to Congress for wilderness designation in accordance with the NPS wilderness management policies and the 1964 Wilderness Act.

2. Information Acquisition

Encourage and participate in efforts to acquire and analyze information through research and other means in order to facilitate development of the best possible management strategies for protecting and interpreting park resources.

3. Interpretation and Environmental Awareness

Foster understanding and appreciation of the natural forces responsible for the evolution of spectacular geological features and diverse ecological communities, and to promote awareness of the natural environment through varied interpretive and educational programs that focus on natural processes and resources.

4. Visitor Use

Assure enjoyable visitor experience through the provision of necessary facilities and services on a year-round basis where possible and in a manner that is compatible with the park’s aesthetic, natural, and cultural values.

The “Cultural Resource Management Plan” was the responsibility of the Interpretive Division with guidance from the resource management specialist. Its principal objective was “to identify, evaluate, preserve, monitor, and interpret the Park’s cultural resources in a manner consistent with requirements of historic preservation law and National Park. Service Policies.” [59]

A new Resource Management Plan was approved by Acting Pacific Northwest Regional Director William Briggle on February 28, 1986. The “Natural Resources Management Program” in the plan stated that the park “is primarily a natural resource area, managed in such a manner as to allow natural processes to occur.” Nine objectives of the natural resources program were listed:

1. Identify and protect critical resources within the park with the highest priority being those related to the caldera ecosystem.

2. To allow, to the greatest extent possible, natural processes to occur, e.g. wildlife, vegetation, soils, geology, and fire.

3. To foster a public awareness and appreciation for the park specific resources through interpretation and public contact.

4. To gather as much credible and scientifically valid information on park resources, through internal and external means, and to apply that information to management decisions.

5. To monitor activities adjacent or near to park boundaries and to work. cooperatively with other agencies to minimize impacts on park resources.

6. To minimize visitor use impacts on park resources through public education and restriction of activities with potential of impact to areas of low sensitivity.

7. To minimize the impacts of park administrative activity by restricting those activities to areas of low sensitivity and concentrating development to pre-disturbed areas.

9. To correct and rehabilitate areas of previous use so as to restore them to natural appearance and processes.

In the plan the park’s natural resources were listed in a general priority based on the criteria of resource sensitivity, applicability of federal or state laws, congressional mandates, responsiveness to management programs, and the immediacy of a perceived threat. The priority listing read:

Caldera ecosystem
Rare and endangered species
Air quality
Fire management
Basic resource inventory
Park management and visitor use
Integrated pest management
Livestock trespass
Pumice field management

The “Cultural Resources Management Program” identified four major historical themes for interpretation and site preservation in the park. These were: (1) Northern Plateau Indians; (2) Discovery and Exploration; (3) Conservation Movement to Protect the Lake; and (4) Park Administration. [60]

During the past several years the park has emphasized a new awareness of its cultural resources under the leadership of Superintendent Robert E. Benton. Among his initiatives have been support for nominating the Munson Valley Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places, designating the Superintendent’s Residence as a National Historic Landmark, rehabilitating and preserving the historic fabric of the buildings in Munson Valley, performing research on the park’s history, and curating the park’s extensive museum and archival collections.

As a result of the geothermal exploration program at Crater Lake, vents were discovered on the floor of the lake in 1987. The impact of this discovery will undoubtedly have repercussions on park resource management issues, especially in light of the geothermal features protection section of the Fiscal Year 1987 appropriations bill.


Appendix A12: Crater Lake National Park Strength of Force Plan, 1946