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You are here: Home Cooperative Our Plan Section 3. Management Capacity Within the Appalachian Community National Park Service - Department of Interior

National Park Service - Department of Interior

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout the U.S. and the world. The National Park Service (NPS) operates Shenandoah and the Great Smokey Mountains National Parks within the Appalachian LCC, in additional to co-managing the Appalachian National Scenic Trail ( which extends over 2,000 miles with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Shenandoah National Park ( includes 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern Appalachians. The park rises above the Virginia Piedmont to its east and the Shenandoah Valley to its west. Two peaks, Stony Man and Hawksbill, exceed 4,000 feet. The range of elevation, slopes and aspects, rocks and soils, precipitation, and latitude create a mix of habitats however most of Shenandoah’s landscape is forested.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park ( encompasses over 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and are unique in their northeast to southwest orientation, which allowed species to migrate along their slopes during climatic changes such as the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.  Elevations in the park range from 875 to 6,643 feet. This range in altitude mimics the latitudinal changes you would experience driving north or south across the eastern United States, say from Georgia to Maine.

Plants and animals common in the southern United States thrive in the lowlands while species common in the northern states find suitable habitat at the higher elevations.  The size, diverse topography and habitats of these NPS land holdings make them important considerations in any discussion of strategic approaches to conserve species through periods of environmental change.

As part of the National Park Service's effort to "improve park management through greater reliance on scientific knowledge," a primary role of the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program ( is to collect, organize, and make available natural resource data and to contribute to the Service's institutional knowledge by facilitating the transformation of data into information through analysis, synthesis, and modeling.

The primary goals of the I&M Program are to:

  • Inventory the natural resources under National Park Service stewardship to determine their nature and status.
  • Monitor park ecosystems to better understand their dynamic nature and condition and to provide reference points for comparisons with other, altered environments.
  • Establish natural resource inventory and monitoring as a standard practice throughout the National Park system that transcends traditional program, activity, and funding boundaries.
  • Integrate natural resource inventory and monitoring information into National Park Service planning, management, and decision making.
  • Share National Park Service accomplishments and information with other natural resource organizations and form partnerships for attaining common goals and objectives.
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