Virgin Islands National Park General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement
The National Park Service is initiating a major planning effort that will guide the future management of both Virgin Islands National Park and the newly established Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. This effort will create a vision for each park that will serve as a management blueprint for the next 15 to 20 years, namely new General Management Plans. To help guide us in this effort, we look forward to receiving input from the public, park partners, and others who have a vested stake in the future of these two parks. What should we be doing to ensure that cultural and natural resources are protected? What should we be doing to ensure that visitors have a quality experience? How can we work with our neighbors to address common problems that affect the parks and surrounding communities? Tell us your ideas about these and other topics.
About the Parks
Virgin Islands National Park comprises slightly more than half of the island of St. John and almost nine square miles of the waters surrounding St. John. The park also includes 135 acres of land on Hassel Island, which is located in the harbor of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, 6 acres in the Red Hook area, and 4 acres at the Wintberg Estate on St. Thomas. In recognition of its internationally significant natural resources, the park was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and is one of the few biosphere reserves in the world to have both significant marine and terrestrial resources. Within its borders lie protected bays of crystal blue-green waters and an abundance of coral reef life, white sandy beaches shaded by seagrape trees, coconut palms, and tropical forests providing habitat for over 800 species of plants. The park's cultural resources are significant in the settlement and colonization of the New World, maritime history and commerce, and African-American history. The park features artifacts from the Pre-Colombian Amerindian civilization, remains of the Danish Colonial sugar plantations, and reminders of African slavery and the subsistence culture that followed during the 100 years after Emancipation.
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument is located in submerged lands off of St. John. This new unit of the National Park System contains all the elements of a Caribbean tropical marine ecosystem. The national monument designation furthers the protection of the scientific objects included in the Virgin Islands National Park. The biological communities of the monument live in a fragile, interdependent relationship and include habitats essential for sustaining and enhancing the tropical marine ecosystem, including mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs, sand communities, shallow mud and fine sediment habitat, and algal plains. The monument contains several threatened and endangered species, which forage, breed, nest, or rest in the waters. Humpback whales, pilot whales, four species of dolphins, brown pelicans, roseate terns, least terns, and the hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles all use portions of the monument. Countless species of reef fish, invertebrates, and plants utilize these submerged lands during their lives, and over 25 species of sea birds feed in the waters. The national monument may also contain some of the 28 known shipwrecks in the vicinity of St. John.