Northern Cascades National Park

Northern Cascades National Park

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The purpose of this paper is to give you some background information
on Northern Cascades National Park and to talk about the management
techniques the park uses to preserve it. Northern Cascades National
Park became a national park on Oct 2, 1968, when Lyndon Johnson sighed
the North Cascades Act. Twenty years later congress designated 93% of
the park as a Stephen Mater Wilderness. When congress declares an area
as “wilderness,” it provides extra protection against human impact.
Northern Cascades National Park is mostly used for backpackers and
mountain climbers, who have little impact on the park. There is one
gravel road open to the public that is in the park, but very few people
utilize it. Each year Northern Cascades National Park receives about
400,000 visitors for recreational purposes. Native Americans were
amongst the first to use this area. Four Indian tribes inhabited the
Cascades; the Upper Skagits, Sauk, Suiattle, and Swinomish who were
attracted to this area for its plentiful resources. By the 1770’s
there was Euro American presence in the Cascades. The Euro Americans
used this area to get furs and pelts for trading. The beaver, wolf,
and grizzly bear were the most sought after pelts in the cascades, do
to their abundance. Later many would come to mine the cascades, but
there wasn’t much of what they were looking for.
Northern Cascades National Park is about 684,000 acres and
encompasses Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. In
today’s society there are very few wilderness areas that aren’t
impacted by human activity like Northern Cascades National Park. Many
areas within the park have had little human intervention. In many
areas of the park the only human impact is coming form air and water
pollution, which doesn’t sound good. But this is still a lot less
impact than other parks receive. The Cascades stretch as far south as
California and continues north to British Columbia. The cascade
mountain range didn’t used to be part of North America, but millions of
years ago it attached itself do to accumulation of sediment, colliding
tectonic plates, and volcanic activity
(www.north.cascades.national-park.com/info.htm). The Cascades is one
of the youngest mountain ranges in the world and one of the fasting
growing.
Depending where you are in the park the climate can dramatically
change. From the hundreds of small lakes and rivers that sculpt the
lowlands to the mountain tops that reach up to 1000

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feet(www.north.cascades.national-park.com/info.htm). Within these
dramatic climate changes comes many different species. The lowlands
are thick with shrubs like the spiny devil and the prickly current and
tall trees like the hemlock and red cider. Many of the rivers and
lakes are inhabited with rainbow and cutthroat trout, which were
introduced many years ago. Most of the water in the park is surrounded
by marshes that provide habitat for many insects like mayflies and
nymphs. The mountaintops aren’t as lush with species as the lowlands,
but you still can find lichens, a few insects, and two rosy finches.
Glaciers are another this which makes up a big park of the Northern
Cascades National Park. There are about 700 glaciers, which make up a
big part of the Cascades Mountain range. In the Park there are about
318 glaciers, which makes up 60% of the glaciers in the US. These 318
glaciers provide 21 billion cubic feet of water to nearby streams and
lakes (www.nps.gov/noca/mgt.htm).
One of the ways that the park’s biologist decide how the should manage
the park is by monitoring different things. In 2001 biologists
conducted a two-year songbird inventory. The purpose of taking this
inventory was to find out how the birds utilize different habitat
within the park. By obtaining this information it can help the
songbirds population, in and outside the park. With this information
the biologists are able to see how to management plans can effect the
population of the songbirds. For example is a songbird is only found
in one part of the park, they shouldn’t open up that part as a
recreation area. By conducting these surveys of the songbird the
biologist will have information on the birds, which the can compare and
contrast in the future.
Another major inventory the biologists and botanists do on the park
looks at native and non-native species. In the park there are over
1600 native plants and of these 1600 plants 73 species are threatened
or endangered according to Washington’s endangered list. The purpose
of monitoring the native species is to find out where they are located
and so they can gain more knowledge on them. Many of these native
plants don’t survive through fires, so where there has been fires,
there are very few native species. Non-native species sometimes pose a
big threat to life forms in the park. By monitoring the sensitive
areas (areas most effected) they can see how these 271 non-native
species affect the parks ecosystem. Two major exotic species that
affect the park are reed Canary grass and knapweed. Reed canary grass
is a fast growing grass that takes over endemic species. This grass
thrives in wetland and its growing season starts earlier that native
species, letting it spread faster. The cascades are on the migratory
path for many birds, but do to these invasive species many have stopped
coming. Some of the endangered species the reed grass effects are bald
eagles, bull trout, and the cascade frog
(www.north.cascades.national-park.com/info.htm). Knapweed poses a big
threat in the eastern part of the Cascades. These weeds can spread
fast and are capable from spreading from the lowlands to the
mountaintops. Every June there is a voluntary day where people go and
pick these weeds. Not all non-native species are bad though. The
rainbow trout and the cutthroat trout were introduced. These trout
have been a part of the lakes, rivers, and streams for hundreds of
years now. They feed mostly on the mayfly and nymphs, which are
abundant throughout the cascades.
For the past ten years Jon Riedel has been measuring the mass of the
glaciers. Jon and his crew measure four different glaciers within the
parks boundaries three times a year. They do it three times, because
in the winter the glaciers mass increases and in the summer the mass
decreases. By monitoring the glaciers Jon is able to find out about
previous weather conditions and to see how it has changed over time.
Northern Cascades National Park also monitors air quality, mushrooms,
and human impact on wildlife.

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