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America's Environmental Resource Management: All the basics You Need to Know!

Updated on December 15, 2012

Yosemite's Beauty

National Geographic on our National Parks

What is Environmental Resource Management?

Environmental Resource Management is the process and strategy that our government uses to appropriately preserve and make use of our natural resources and the natural beauty of the land. It applies not only to the acquisition of those resources for energy, but also to our parks and recreation system. Currently, our government has our parks system separated into these divisions:

  • National Parks
  • National Forests
  • Fish and Game
  • State Parks
  • County Parks

Park Divisions and Distinctions

Each of these divisions of the parks carries certain distinctions. Some parks and forests have less restrictive rules than others. Here is an outline of the restrictions associated with each type of park and/or resource management designation:

National Parks: These parks fall under a national jurisdiction. National Parks designation is reserved for some of the most beautiful land features in the country. National Parks allow camping and backpacking but with more restrictive settings. In many cases, permits are required and group size limits are in place. National Parks also use the principles of sacrifice areas to keep most of the park pristine. They monitor yearly traffic and strategically think about the impact of the visitor population on the park. Logging and other commercial enterprises that disturb the land, the ecosystem, or remove natural resources are prohibited.

National Forests: These parks also carry a national jurisdiction. National Forests allow logging. Camping and backpacking are also allowed but with much less restriction. Permits are not required and in most cases you can camp anywhere you want to. General principles of no-trace camping are encouraged. These areas typically cover vast amounts of wilderness that do not fall under National Park designation.

State Parks: These parks fall under state jurisdiction. Depending on the type of park, they can allow camping, backpacking, swimming, fishing, boating etc... These parks can be more restrictive like National Parks. They do not generally require permits for backpacking but usually have designated camping areas. There can be regulations around boating as well. Park regulations vary from state to state and may be more restrictive than others. In general, State Parks operate on the philosophy of using sacrifice areas to keep the rest of the park pristine.

County Parks: County Parks fall under a county's jurisdiction. They tend to be much smaller and less well known. Often they can provide good day hiking but do not usually provide camping. This also can vary from state to state. County parks are not typically open over night to the population. They tend to be less well funded and more restrictive.

National Fish and Game (Wildlife): The Fish and Wildlife department is a separate agency that deals with management of fish and wildlife issues related to federal lands like national forests and parks. It can also include lakes, seashore, rivers, and streams. The Fish and Game department monitors hunting and fishing activity and regulations on federal lands, lakes, rivers etc...

State Fish and Game (Wildlife): The Fish and Wildlife department also has state divisions that are responsible for monitoring aquatic animals and land wildlife within the state. They issues hunting and fishing permits, regulate hunting and fishing in the state, and take responsibility for preserving the integrity of our ecosystems within the state.

Other Designations: Often times you will see other designations like National Seashore, National Monument, National Scenic River etc... These designations all fall under the National Park system and identify unique heritage sites that do not meet the classical designation of a National Park but which the government feels are important to preserve.

Designated Wilderness Area: An area with a wilderness designation means that you are entering an area that has very limited interference from humans. As a result, there are limited to no search and rescue operations set up to go into an area with this designation. It means that you should know that you are expected to be able to get yourself out of the wilderness area, if you travel into it.

Sacrifice Areas: The concept of a sacrifice area was invented to preserve the rest of the land. A sacrifice area is a piece of land that has been created as a primary attraction to draw people to. By drawing people to the sacrifice area, most of those same visitors will not take the time to go see other parts of the park which are in much more pristine condition. A good part of the population is not inclined to walk far from their cars, so if you create areas where they can appreciate the natural beauty without having to exert much effort, you can control and limit the amount of visitors that traverse to other parts of a park without implementing restrictions. In Yosemite, the most popular National Park in America, the Yosemite Valley is a sacrifice area while vast amounts of the park are rarely traversed. Sacrifice areas can include such attractions as nature trails that label plants and trees, to overlooks along a road, to waterfalls and other attractions such as you find in the Yosemite Valley.

Systems and Controls Preserve America's Beauty

Through this system of controls, the government has been very effective at protecting and preserving America's natural beauty. Many countries have lost much of their natural beauty because of corporate greed and government mismanagement of natural resources. You should be thankful that our government has put these systems and controls in place. You also need to understand them so that you can learn how to benefit from the park system that we have. There is a tremendous amount of natural beauty in America and you really need to see it and enjoy it with your fellow Americans. You also need to be safe and you need to know which designations meet your outdoor adventure needs.


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