Role of an RNA

Federal land-management agencies have been developing a national system of Research Natural Areas since 1927. More than 400 areas have received this designation nationally. Since inception of the RNA Program, there have been two primary purposes for Research Natural Areas:
1. to preserve a representative array of all significant natural ecosystems and their inherent processes as baseline areas; and
2. to obtain, through scientific education and research, information about natural system components, inherent processes, and comparisons with representative manipulated systems.
Research Natural Areas provide several specific advantages to the nation's scientific community, which are typically not otherwise available. These include potential use of an area that has had minimal human interference and has a reasonable assurance of long-term existence, and the potential association and interaction of scientists from different disciplines leading to discoveries unlikely to occur without such an association. Conducting research at common locations is key to developing these interactions. Research Natural Areas not only assist in the progress of basic science, but also provide federal and state agencies with information upon which to base management decisions. The melding of ecosystem preservation and research on basic ecological processes at Research Natural Areas provides numerous valuable options to society. The Red Butte Canyon RNA serves this purpose well. Although initially affected by human activities during the early settlement of the Salt Lake Valley, the canyon was soon set aside by the federal government and has now had nearly a century to recover (though the loss of beaver represents a significant impact to the ecology of the riparian ecosystem). Other canyons in the Wasatch Range have not received equivalent protection.

As we continue in this twenty-first century there will be increasing pressure to understand the dynamics of ecological systems and man's impact on ecological processes. Maintained as a protected watershed, the Red Butte Canyon RNA provides a unique opportunity for addressing these important issues to human society and to the preservation of our environment. Unprotected, it is an invaluable resource lost forever.