Using a scorecard approach, we assessed the condition of natural resources within the major habitats in Mount Rushmore National Memorial (MORU), South Dakota, and Niobrara National Scenic River (NIOB), Nebraska, as part of a “pilot” effort to determine a National Park Service (NPS) system-wide approach to Natural Resource Condition Assessments (NRCA). Both parks are considered small — MORU because of size (517 ha) and NIOB because the NPS does not own land within the boundary of the park. Small parks often contain resources that are not well-known because they lack research, monitoring, and staff expertise. However, we found adequate information to assess the condition, and sometimes trend, of 12 of 15 biodiversity and process indicators at MORU and 17 of 22 at NIOB, although most of the data we used to establish reference conditions came from sources outside of the parks. We believe forested habitats at MORU and NIOB are in poor condition and deteriorating primarily due to the suppression of fire for over 100 years. This is in contrast to the rivers, streams, and wetland habitats at both parks that are in good condition but threatened by an exotic fish (MORU) and reductions in streamflow and exotic plants (NIOB). For two habitats — stream and wetland (MORU) and Niobrara River and tributaries (NIOB) — we suggest several indicators of current condition be added as Vital Signs for long-term monitoring. The score-card approach is limited to those small parks with data to establish reference conditions for indicators.
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Vol. 34 • No. 2