After years of planning and public input, Shenandoah National Park staff recently concluded the Rock Outcrop Management Plan and Environmental Assessment planning process with the signing of the Finding of No Significant Impact.
The EA analyzed alternatives that will direct the future management of rock outcrop areas and helps direct recreational activity in in the park. Shenandoah’s rock outcrops are some of the largest in the region and contain a myriad of important vegetation communities and rare plant and animal populations. These rock outcrops are popular and draw visitors to the views, sweeping vistas and recreational activities they afford; however, intense use of rock outcrops for recreational activities has caused severe degradation of vegetation and soils at some rock outcrops, including impacts to globally rare species and communities.
The selected alternative “Balance Between Natural Resource Protection and Visitor Use”, provides for visitor use and enjoyment of rock outcrop areas while protecting natural resources at the rock outcrops and minimizing impacts to natural resource conditions. Implementation of the ROMP will result in some minor restrictions to visitor uses in certain areas of the park. Camping will be prohibited in portions of certain high elevation areas including Little Stony Man, Hawksbill, and North Marshall Mountains, as well as areas of Overall Run Falls North and Mary’s Rock. Additionally, limited closures will be affected to protect high elevation resources in portions of Little Stony Man Mountain, Old Rag Mountain, and Hawksbill Mountain. Closures are effective immediately.
In announcing the signing of the FONSI, Superintendent Jim Northup said, “We have a legal obligation to protect these rare and sensitive plant communities and animal populations. As we begin formal implementation of the ROMP we will continue to work closely with park partners and stakeholders to provide public enjoyment, while meeting these legal obligations.”
Under the plan, park staff will also monitor the status of rare natural resources and invasive plants, as well as visitor use and impacts on rock outcrops. Staff will also educate the public and cooperators on the importance of protecting rare resources at rock outcrops using signage, presentations and publications.
A copy of the FONSI can be found at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/shen.