2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM


HIGGINS, Robert D., Geologic Resources Division, National Park Service, P.O. Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225-0287 and WOOD, James F., Geologic Resources Division, National Park Service, 12795 West Alameda Parkway, Lakewood, CO 80228, bob_higgins@nps.gov

The National Park Service manages some of the world's finest geological sites. These sites and the geologists that have worked in them are a significant chapter in the NPS administrative history. In the late 1800's the four great surveys of the American West were lead by George Wheeler, Clarence King, John Wesley Powell, and Ferdinand Hayden. In surveying the unknown reaches of western states these geologists, who would later head the U.S. Geological Survey, had enormous impact on the development of the park system. The first monuments were predominately geologic and many of the early NPS managers had geology backgrounds.

Currently, the National Park system includes 162 units with significant geologic resources, and of those, 85 were solely established for geology. Seven National Parks have been recognized by UNESCO as having international geologic significance. In additional to the geologic wonders in national parks, the Park Service is responsible for administering the National Natural Landmarks program. More than 100 landmarks have been recognized for geologic significance, most are outside of NPS lands. Together, the National Natural Landmarks and the National Parks constitute a National program that recognizes geologic heritage.

In 1998, a law was passed that mandated the Park Service to use “science based decision-making” to guide its management activities. The National Park Service is beginning to inventory all of its significant geologic features, paleontological sites, and caves. In a number of parks, geologic monitoring has also been established to track changes in geologic processes.

The trend toward increased recognition of the importance of geologic heritage is likely to continue as the public and policy-makers become more aware of its significance. The service is working with State and local governments, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey and the geologic community to build its geologic heritage programs. We anticipate that these collective partnerships will open opportunities for the geological societies, academic organizations, and the geologic community at large to become involved in recommending geologic heritage sites and in their long-term conservation.