After years of planning and public input, Shenandoah National Park staff recently concluded the Rock Outcrop Management Plan (ROMP) and Environmental Assessment (EA) planning process with the signing of the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The EA analyzed alternatives that will direct the future management of rock outcrop areas which helps direct recreational activity in the park. Shenandoah's rock outcrops are some of the largest in the region and contain a myriad of important vegetation communities, aas well as 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.
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 here.
Hiking in the Smokies