2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the National Heritage Areas program. Conceived as a way to cross the culture – nature divide, heritage areas stretch beyond political boundaries to tell landscape scale histories and protect regional environmental resources. The areas tell stories that are too big, too gritty, too alive and too expensive to be confined within a traditional national park unit. Yet, heritage areas have been consistently hammered by shrinking federal budgets, questions about the proper role of government, and even their right to exist. Read more about how the LLO plans to mark this important anniversary.
In 1970, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation completed a long awaited study of outdoor recreation resources in the United States, entitled “The Recreation Imperative.” The ambitious document laid out a new direction for conservation, calling for an infusion of some $6 billion, with the majority of funds going to cities – a major change from previous allocation patterns. Ultimately, neither the Nixon nor the Ford Administrations ever released the report and it was only made public in 1974 through action by a Congressional Committee.
Last month (November 2014) was a very busy moment for World Heritage. At almost the same time, but half way around the globe, ICOMOS held their 18th triennial General Assembly in Florence Italy and IUCN held their once in a decade congress World Parks Congress in Sydney Australia. A few enterprising individuals managed to make an appearance at both meetings, but as is often the case the forces of culture and the forces of nature were far, far apart.
Do the recent midterm elections in the United States signal a change in the nation’s heritage policies? To read the tea leaves, we might look to the fate of parks and heritage conservation programs in Australia and Canada – where conservative governments have recently been in power. In the past, both countries had a track record of innovative heritage programs – developing world class historic sites, new approaches to the recognition of indigenous cultural values and strong interpretation of history and nature. So what has been the impact of the fiscal belt tightening of Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada?
New York State has played a pivotal role in shaping the history of conservation in the United States. The Adirondack Park, Central Park, and the Hudson River Greenway, among other sites, have all influenced patterns of protected area management, as did the state’s innovative urban cultural parks (now heritage areas) program.