The NNL designation is made by the Secretary of the Interior after in-depth scientific study of a potential site. All new designations must have owner concurrence. The selection process is rigorous: to be considered for NNL status, a site must be one of the best examples of a natural region's characteristic biotic or geologic features. Since establishment of the NNL program, a multi-step process has been used to designate a site for NNL status. Since 1970, the following steps have constituted the process.
- A natural area inventory of a natural region is completed to identify the most promising sites.
- After landowners are notified that the site is being considered for NNL status, a detailed onsite evaluation is conducted by scientists other than those who conducted the inventory.
- The evaluation report is peer reviewed by other experts to assure its soundness.
- The report is reviewed further by National Park Service staff.
- The site is reviewed by the Secretary of the Interior's National Park Advisory Board to determine that the site qualifies as an NNL.
- The findings are provided to the Secretary of the Interior who approves or declines.
- Landowners are notified a third time informing them that the site has been designated an NNL
Prospective sites for NNL designation are terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; geological features, exposures, and landforms that record active geological processes or portions of earth history; and fossil evidence of biological evolution. Each major natural history "theme" can be further subdivided into various sub-themes. For example, sub-themes suggested in 1972 for the overall theme "Lakes and ponds" included large deep lakes, large shallow lakes, lakes of complex shape, crater lakes, kettle lake and potholes, oxbow lakes, dune lakes, sphagnum-bog lakes, lakes fed by thermal streams, tundra lakes and ponds, swamps and marshy areas, sinkhole lakes, unusually productive lakes, and lakes of high productivity and high clarity.
Read more about this topic: List Of National Natural Landmarks
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