Carlsbad Caverns National Park contains more than 80 limestone caves that are outstanding in the profusion, diversity and beauty of their speleothems. Caves are fragile environments that are affected by human activities and natural processes both underground and on the surface. Although caves are a delicate non-renewable resource, they are a continual source of exploration and discovery.
Carlsbad Cavern has a world-famous colony of migratory Mexican free-tailed bats. The survival of the park's bat populations, which in some cases cross international borders, depends on our better understanding of their value, fragility, and place in the ecosystem.
Lechuguilla Cave is the deepest and third longest limestone cave in the United States, containing speleothems and microbes found nowhere else in the world. The recent exploration and scientific discoveries in Lechuguilla Cave, and other caves in the park, hold immense potential for scientific research.
The park contains 33,125 acres of rugged wilderness backcountry terrain with jagged limestone outcrops, sharp pointy plants, and no water. The challenging desert wilderness of Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park contains one of the few protected portions of the northern Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. The Chihuahuan Desert reveals, upon close examination, complex natural processes that yield an astounding abundance and diversity of plant and animal life.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park preserves a portion of the Capitan Reef - one of the best preserved, exposed Permian-age fossil reefs in the world. Water, geologic forces, climate changes, and vast time have produced and changed the fossil reef and its spectacular caves - a process that continues to the present day.
The park's cultural resources represent a long and varied continuum of human use starting in prehistoric times, and illustrating many adaptations to this desert environment. Human activities, including prehistoric and historic American Indian occupations, European exploration and settlement, industrial exploitation, commercial development, and tourism have each left reminders of their presence, and each has contributed to the rich history of the area.
The park's surface includes approximately 750 plant species, 331 species of birds, 64 species of mammals, and 44 reptiles and amphibians. Many species of plants and animals in the park are at the limits of their geographic distribution, including the northernmost colony of migratory cave swallows in the United States.
Proper stewardship of the outstanding natural resources of Carlsbad Caverns National Park requires the knowledge of environmental trends such as air quality, the status of wildlife populations, and the human impacts upon the cave and surface environments. Scientific research projects in the park assist managers in making informed decisions for the protection of park resources.
The management of Carlsbad Caverns National Park ensures the preservation and protection of cave resources, the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem, and other natural resources; provides opportunities for public use, enjoyment, and understanding while minimizing impacts on park resources and natural processes; and facilitates research that adds to the body of scientific knowledge. The park General Management Plan articulates park management philosophy and provides strategies for addressing issues and achieving management objectives.
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