Environmental Management

, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 1098-1110

First online:

Chronology of Awareness About US National Park External Threats

  • Craig L. ShaferAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University Email author 

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The objective of this paper is to raise understanding of the history of protected area external threat awareness in the United States and at World Protected Area Congresses. The earliest concerns about external threats to US national parks began in the late nineteenth century: a potential railroad transgression of Yellowstone National Park in the 1880s. During the early and mid 1930s, George Wright and colleagues focused on outside boundary concerns like of hunting and trapping of furbearers, grazing, logging, disease and hybridization between species. In the 1960s, a worldwide recognition began about the role of outside habitat fragmentation/isolation on nature reserves and human generated stressors crossing their boundaries. The State of the Park Report 1980 added a plethora of threats: oil/gas and geothermal exploration and development, hydropower and reclamation projects, urban encroachment, roads, resorts, and recreational facilities. The early 1980s ushered in political interference with NPS threats abatement efforts as well as Congressional legislative initiatives to support the abatement challenges of the agency. By 1987, the Government Accounting Office issued its first report on National Park Service (NPS) progress in dealing with external threats. Climate change impacts on parks, especially in terms of animals adjusting their temperature and moisture requirements by latitude and altitude, surfaced in the technical literature by the mid-1980s. By 1992, the world parks community stressed the need to integrate protected areas into the surrounding landscape and human community. The importance of the matrix has gradually gained appreciation in the scientific community. This chronology represents one example of national park and protected areas’ institutional history contributing to the breath of modern conservation science.


Protected area External threats US national parks History Natural resource management