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  • Zion National ParkGeneral Management Plan

    National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior

    Zion National ParkUtah

  • Zion National ParkGeneral Management Plan

    Zion National ParkUtah

    Produced by the Denver Service CenterNational Park Service

    U.S. Department of the InteriorWashington, DC

  • There is an eloquence totheir forms which stirs the

    imagination with a singularpower and kindles in the

    mind. Nothing can exceedthe wondrous beauty of

    Zion . . . in the nobility andbeauty of the sculpturesthere is no comparison.

    Clarence Dutton 1880

  • National Park Service iii

    The purpose of this plan is to describe thegeneral path the National Park Service intends tofollow in managing Zion National Park over thenext 20 years.

    The plan will provide a framework for proactivedecision making on such issues as visitor use,natural and cultural resource management, andpark development, which will allow park man-agers to effectively address future problems andopportunities. In most cases, new developmentoutside the park will take place to meet visitorneeds.

    Park managers will make several changes toproactively address impacts resulting fromincreased levels of visitor use. The park will bezoned to ensure that resources are protected andopportunities are provided for a range of qualityvisitor experiences. Most of the park (90%) willcontinue to be recommended for wilderness des-ignation and will be managed according to theprovisions of the Wilderness Act. In the front-country no new major visitor facilities will beprovided; however, small visitor facilities, such aspicnic sites and restrooms, may be built in sev-eral areas, including the Kolob Canyons and theeast entrance. Voluntary visitor shuttles may runalong the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway to the eastentrance. The Zion Canyon Lodge will continueto operate as it has in the past. Part of the NorthFork of the Virgin River in the main ZionCanyon will be restored to a more natural condi-tion.

    In the backcountry several management actionswill be taken. Three existing research naturalareas (21% of the park) will be deauthorized,

    while new research natural areas covering 6% ofthe park will be designated. Interim group sizelimits and new interim group encounter rateswill be instituted pending the completion of thewilderness management plan. Park managersmay need to limit or reduce visitor numbers on12 trails and routes in the recommended wilder-ness, including part of the Narrows, Middle Forkof Taylor Creek, and La Verkin Creek. Onlyauthorized research and NPS-guided educa-tional groups will be allowed in 9,031 acres inremote backcountry areas (includingParunuweap Canyon) due to their designation asresearch natural areas.

    The National Park Service will propose fiveBureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, total-ing approximately 950 acres, for transfer to thepark. Nine access easements, totaling about 15miles, and three conservation easements, totaling2,220 acres, will be proposed on private landsoutside the park. Congressional authorizationwill be required for all these actions.

    Five drainages and their tributaries in the parkand six tributaries on BLM lands adjacent to thepark will be included in the national wild andscenic rivers system. The five drainages in thepark are: the North Fork of the Virgin Riverabove and below the Temple of Sinawava, theEast Fork of the Virgin River, North Creek, LaVerkin Creek, and Taylor Creek. The drainagespartly on BLM lands are: Kolob Creek, GooseCreek, Shunes Creek, Willis Creek, BeartrapCanyon, and the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek.Congressional authorization will be required forinclusion of these drainages in the national wildand scenic rivers system.

    Summary

  • Contents

    Foundation for the PlanPurpose of and Need for a Plan 1Purposes, Significance, and Missions Goals 5Park Policies and Practices 6Primary Planning Issues and Concerns 21Issues to be Addressed in Future Plans 25

    The PlanIntroduction 28Summary of the Management Zones 32General Management Strategies 35Zoning and Related Actions 40Boundary Adjustments and Easements 50Proposals for wild, Scenic, and Recreational

    River Designation 54Implementation 58

    Appendixes/BibliographyAppendixes

    A: Record of Decision 61B: Statement of Findings for Floodplains 67C: Definitions of the Management Zones 69D: Summary of Research Natural Areas 77E: Wild and Scenic River Evaluation 80F: Legislative Historic for Zion National Park 83G: Summary of Key Legal Mandates 84

    Bibliography 86

    MapsLocation 4Areas of Relative Inaccessibility 29Zoning 41Recommended Wilderness and Land Status 47Park Boundary Adjustment and Adjacent

    Landownership 51Wild and Scenic Rivers 55

    Tables1. Proposed Classification of Rivers 572. River Mileage and Landownership of Suitable

    Rivers 82

    National Park Service v

  • National Park Service 1

    As one of 384 units in the national park system,Zion National Park is under the management ofthe National Park Service (NPS). The ParkService manages all park units in accordancewith the mandate in its 1916 Organic Act andother legislation to conserve resources unim-paired for the enjoyment of future generations.To help achieve this mandate, the National Parksand Recreation Act of 1978 and NPSManagement Policies (NPS 2001) require eachnational park unit to have a broad-scale generalmanagement plan (GMP).

    The purpose of this General Management Plan isto describe the general path the National ParkService intends to follow in managing ZionNational Park over the next 20 years. The plandoes not provide specific and detailed answersto every issue or question facing Zion. However,the plan does provide a framework for proactivedecision making on such issues as visitor use,natural and cultural resource management, andpark development, which will allow park man-agers to effectively address future problems andopportunities.

    Many changes have occurred in Zion NationalPark, in the surrounding area, and in park man-agement since Zions last master plan wasapproved in 1977. In particular, park visitationhas grown dramatically, with visitor use levelsdoubling between 1982 and 1997. This increase inuse has affected park resources and the diversityof visitor experiences offered in Zion. The ZionCanyon shuttle system also has changed thevisitor experience in the park. A new plan isessential for providing guidance to manageZions visitors in the 21st century, and thusensure the preservation of park resources andprovision of opportunities for visitors to havequality park experiences.

    Both the National Parks and Recreation Act andNPS policies require general management plans

    to address visitor carrying capacity. One of theprimary purposes of this plan is to meet thisrequirement. Carrying capacity is defined underthe visitor experience and resource protection(VERP) framework as the type and level ofvisitor use a park can accommodate while sus-taining resource and social conditions thatcomplement the purposes of the park and itsmanagement objectives. In other words, carryingcapacity is a prescription for the levels of visitoruse in relation to various natural resource andvisitor experience conditions. To set up a frame-work for addressing carrying capacity, the parkwas divided into zones that describe differingdesired resource conditions and visitor experi-ences. (Note that to fully implement the VERPframework, a follow-up implementation plan isneeded to identify key social and naturalresource indicators to be monitored in each ofthe parks zones, set standards [minimumacceptable conditions] for each indicator, anddevelop a monitoring program.)

    In addition to meeting the requirements foraddressing visitor use management, park man-agers needed this new plan to address otherissues and concerns that have arisen in the pasttwo decades. These issues include those relatedto research natural areas (RNAs) (i.e., areasadministratively designated by federal land man-agement agencies for research and educationalpurposes or to maintain biological diversity),noise, and land uses adjacent to the park. Withmost of Zion recommended for wildernessdesignation, the Park Service also needs this newplan to address how this designation will affectpark management (e.g., changes in park zoning).Finally, a new plan presents an opportunity forpark managers to explore and recommend otherchanges related to managing Zion, such as pro-posing boundary adjustments and wild andscenic river designations.

    Purpose of and Need for a PlanFO

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  • 2 Zion National Park General Management Plan

    Planning Assumptions

    Several fundamental assumptions underpin the General Management Plan. These assumptions are con-sidered givens for how the park is managed in the future.

    Existing major developments in the park will remain, although their functions may change. Park staffwill continue to maintain the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, between the south and east entrances of thepark, which will remain opened to through (i.e., nonrecreational commuter) traffic.

    The National Park Service will not build new facilities, such as campgrounds, lodges, roads, and full-service visitor centers, within the park, aside from those associated with the transportation system. Itis assumed that the private sector will provide lodging and camping facilities outside the park.

    The National Park Service will continue to operate the Zion Canyon shuttle system, as described in the1997 Canyon Transportation System Environmental Assessment.

    Park managers will adjust staffing levels to reflect the increase in workloads.

  • National Park Service 3