Center for State of the Parks Gives Lassen Volcanic National Park A "Fair" Rating
Funding deficiencies are hamstringing the staff at Lassen Volcanic National Park by preventing them from adequately protecting the park's natural and cultural resources, according to the Center for State of the Parks.
The center, an offshoot of the National Parks Conservation Association, in a just-released report rated the overall condition of the park's natural and cultural resources as "fair" and pointed to funding inadequacies as contributing greatly to the problems. For instance, the park lacks a cultural resource manager as well as a staffer to oversee the park's GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data management and analysis.
For fiscal year 2008, Lassen Volcanic National Park had an operational budget of $4.3 million, which was insufficient to fund all projects. As a result of funding and staffing shortfalls, many natural and cultural resource projects could not be conducted. Natural resource projects awaiting funding include an assessment of impacts at park boundaries (i.e., cattle and motor vehicle trespass effects) and control of non-native plants. Due to a lack of baseline information, Lassen Volcanic’s ecosystems are only partly understood. The Park Service is addressing this data gap through both in-house inventory and monitoring programs (e.g., black bear monitoring, pika monitoring, climate change studies) and projects in conjunction with the Klamath Inventory and Monitoring Network. The park needs funds for equipment and staff to support both in-house projects and work done through the network.
Cultural resource projects that require funding include a conservation survey of museum objects, the collection of oral histories from people who worked or stayed at Drakesbad Guest Ranch during its period of significance (e.g., descendants of the Sifford family, which owned the ranch from 1900 to 1953), and archaeological investigations at two impacted sites at Drakesbad. In addition to resource management projects, money is needed for infrastructure, such as the installation of protective ultraviolet filtering film to the museum’s skylights.
The weakest link at the park, according to the center, is the missing cultural resource manager, as that job provides "holistic oversight of the park's archeology, ethnography, cultural landscapes, historic structures, and museum collections...."
Elsewhere, the center noted that "(K)ey portions of the park’s museum and archival collections, such as the photographic slide collections of the eruption of Lassen Peak, are housed in an administrative building closet that lacks climate control and earthquake protection and is too small. Digitizing the photos for internal use and storing the originals at the park’s shared facility in Orick would safeguard the historic collection."
The center did note some encouraging management strides at Lassen. It found that park managers are restoring ecosystems through the use of prescribed burns as well as "mechanical or manual" approaches to restoring areas impacted by past fire suppression policies; has restored 109 of 195 acres of disturbed land; has been working to correct damaged wetlands at Drakesbad Meadow, and; is developing a comprehensive plan to address management of the Warner Valley, home to the historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch, which today is a working dude ranch. The valley has been impacted by the Dream Lake Dam that was built at Drakesbad in 1932 to provide for boating and fishing but which has had a negative consequence on water flows and ecosystems, the center pointed out.
Lassen Volcanic also saw the opening in 2008 of the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, which is the first year-round National Park Service facility to receive a "platinum" Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating, said the center.
To read the entire 60-page report at: http://www.npca.org/stateoftheparks/lassen/